A funeral director recently remarked to me that she referred her families to the internet when they inquired about power of attorney forms. Yes, free (or cheap) power of attorney forms are plentiful on the internet. In reality, there are too many POA forms for a family to choose from, and the odds are that they will select one that does not meet their needs or comply with their home state requirements.
Each state has its own POA law, and those laws differ in some significant ways. If a family does not specify their home state in the Google search, the results will pull POA forms from all 50 states.
Search results will be narrowed somewhat when the home state is identified, but the family will still face a long list of websites to review. Here is an example of a search for “Missouri power of attorney forms”. Sponsored websites are at the top of the list, and the first hit describes 9 types of POA forms. Which is right for your family? As you scroll down the results, notice that some forms are for health care and some for undisclosed purposes. Each state’s attorney bar can be a good source for POA forms, but when you follow the MO Bar link a health care POA is described.
When a family makes an inquiry to the funeral director, one power they probably want covered is the right of sepulcher. By this I mean, the prospective principal may want the POA agent to have power to control the type of funeral the principal wants. In Missouri, this requires a specific type of POA form: the durable power of attorney for finances. And then, the POA form must include specific language for controlling the disposition of the body. So, there are three required elements: Durable, Finances and Power over Disposition. When I reviewed samples of the Missouri forms, none met these requirements.
The funeral director I mentioned at the beginning of this post recommends the Illinois short form for property. If you were to Google for that term, this is the result you will get. The first result isn’t what the family is looking for, but the second result is. Here is the form if you were to click the link. The Illinois form will require the family to make some decisions they may not understand. But even if they make the correct decisions and execute the document pursuant to Illinois law requirements, it will be the wrong form for the right of sepulcher. Illinois is one of those states that view the disposition of the body as a health care issue. Consequently, the family would instead need a durable health care POA that includes control over the disposition of the body. Free forms offered by health care facilities may not think to include powers to control the disposition of the body.
A funeral director is courting a lawsuit when recommending the wrong type of POA to customers. If there should be a family dispute over a funeral arrangement, and the funeral director chooses the person with the POA over the next of kin, the funeral director could come to regret her advice. And so in some situations, a free POA form is worse than nothing.