Did divorce invalidate my power of attorney?

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Question:

I gave my wife a general power of attorney before we filed for divorce. However, she recently bought a car and signed my name to the contract. I am now being held to this debt because of the power of attorney (which I have since canceled). Is there anything saying that once a couple files for a divorce a power of attorney is no longer legally valid, or am I stuck with this bill?

Answer:

When your spouse is your attorney-in-fact, that designation does not automatically end if you get divorced -- unless the document was made in one of the following states: Alabama, California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington, or Wisconsin.

You did the right thing when you revoked the power of attorney document -- but it sounds as if you did not do it quite quickly enough to escape the debt for this car. Assuming that you now own the car, the best you can do may be to sell it and use the proceeds to pay the bill.

Of course, your wife was not legally permitted to take any actions under the power of attorney that could be considered against your financial interest, and unless the document specifically allowed it, she was not legally permitted to benefit personally from any transaction she conducted on your behalf. In other words, she should not have used the power of attorney document to purchase a car for herself. If you find yourself both carless and holding the bag for the debt, you might want to get yourself to an experienced lawyer to talk about your options.

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