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.

Talk to a Lawyer

Need a lawyer? Start here.

How it Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you
FEATURED LISTINGS FROM NOLO
Swipe to view more
NEED PROFESSIONAL HELP ?

Talk to an Estate Planning attorney.

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you