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Estate of Huston

    Brief Fact Summary. Objector, Mary Deonne Greene (Objector), niece of Testator Amelia D. Huston (Testator) and a residuary beneficiary under Testator’s will, appeals from a lower court ruling entered for Petitioner John E. Amberg, attorney-in-fact and financial representative (Petitioner). Objected contends that the judgment should be reversed because the evidence indicates that the annuity gift to Petitioner was void.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. A power of attorney is a written authorization to an agent to perform specified acts on behalf of a trust principal; as such, ratification of an agent’s act could only be made in the manner that was necessary to confer original authority.

    Facts. Testator had Petitioner take care of her financial affairs. Testator told Petitioner that she would like to make an annuity gift to him. Petitioner testified that after Testator’s death, he learned that the provisions of the annuity had not conformed to Testator’s desires. Consequentially, Petitioner served a notice of proposed action on the residuary beneficiaries and sought the beneficiaries’ consent to the transfer of any of the estate interest in the annuity. Objector contends that the gift was void because under the express power of attorney terms, Petitioner was not allowed to make a gift to himself. Although the power to transfer the annuity was not put in writing by Testator, Testator nonetheless orally assented to the gift in front of a bank representative.

    Issue. Was Testator’s oral assent to the gift of an annuity to Petitioner adequate to ratify the gift?

    Held. No. A power of attorney is a written authorization to an agent to perform specified acts on behalf of a trust principal; as such, ratification of an agent’s act could only be made in the manner that was necessary to confer original authority. Verbal assent to a gift is not adequate to supercede the terms of the written agreement. The gift to Petitioner is void as having been outside Petitioner’s authority under his power of attorney. Ratification of the act could only have been made in the manner that was necessary to create the original authority. The judgment of the trial court is reversed.

    Discussion. The Court determined that even though the evidence indicated that Testator intended to give the annuity gift to Petitioner, the gift was still outside of the reach of the Petitioner because this power was not given in writing, as the power of attorney must be in order to be valid.


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