Was it legal to use my mother-in-law's credit card?



Question:

My mother-in-law made a power of attorney to give me the authority to handle her finances. I used one of her Visa cards to buy something for myself. I am paying the bill, but she thinks I should be charged in a criminal court. Since I had a power of attorney, wasn't this legal to do?

Answer:

As an agent (called an attorney-in-fact in some states), you are duty-bound to avoid any sort of personal benefit from financial transactions you conduct on behalf of your mother-in-law -- and to keep your own finances separate from hers. Your best intention might not have been to stick the woman with the debt, but I am afraid that what you have done is illegal as can be.

Some power of attorney documents explicitly waive these requirements -- most often when the agent is a spouse or life partner -- but most do not.

Do pay your mother-in-law what you owe her as soon as possible. Do not use her credit card to do so.

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