Q: Can power of attorney list themselves as beneficiary on life insurance policy? Is the law different depending on state?
The life insurance policy currently has no beneficiaries listed
A: If the power of attorney document authorizes the Agent to make changes to beneficiary designations, and if it does not prohibit the Agent from listing themselves as a beneficiary, then it is likely they can list themselves as a beneficiary on a life insurance policy. The context is important here as well, if for example the Agent is the only child of the principal (the person who made the Power of Attorney document) and if the only child is the sole heir of the principal's estate, then it might be the case that the principal would want the Agent to be able to list themselves as the beneficiary of a life insurance policy in order to have the proceeds avoid probate. The financial power of attorney statutes vary from state to state, so the answer in other states may be different than from Wisconsin. However, in Wisconsin, you can generally grant this power to the Agent if you want to. In the Wisconsin statutory power of attorney document there is a checkbox that grants the Agent power over insurance and annuities, so if this document was used, it would depend on whether this checkbox was initialed by the principal. Finally, remember that an Agent always has the duty to act in good faith and in the best interests of the principal when they are performing their duties as Agent, so whether or not the Agent has the authority to add themselves as a beneficiary under a life insurance policy is different from the question of whether they acted loyally and in good faith. The answer to those questions is very fact-specific and I suggest you seek the counsel of a qualified estate planning attorney who can review the documents and answer your questions in detail.
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