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Does Jen Shah Need a Power of Attorney in Jail?

By Jordan Walker, J.D. | Last updated on

Now that “Real Housewives of Salt Lake City" star Jen Shah has been sentenced, she's probably thinking about what she should do before serving 6.5 years in federal prison. While spending time with family and other loved ones is likely a priority, Shah should also make sure her financial affairs are in order by making a financial power of attorney (POA).

What Is a Financial Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney is a legal document that gives someone the authority to act or make decisions on your behalf. A financial power of attorney allows you to appoint another person to handle your money and property for you. The person you appoint is usually called an “agent" but is also sometimes called an “attorney-in-fact." You can give your agent authority to act on your behalf indefinitely or for a specific period of time.

There are different types of powers of attorney and examples include:

  • Durable power of attorney: A power of attorney that does not end if you become incapacitated or are declared legally incompetent.
  • General power of attorney: A general power of attorney typically allows your agent to take any legal action on your behalf.
  • Medical power of attorney: This is also sometimes referred to as a health care power of attorney or a health care directive and is often combined with a living will. A medical power of attorney allows you to designate someone to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so yourself.

Why Jen Shah Needs a Financial POA

A financial power of attorney is an important part of planning for incapacity. While we tend to think this means a physical or mental inability to make or communicate decisions, it can also mean imprisonment. According to the Uniform Power of Attorney Act, incapacity means you are unable to manage property or business affairs because you are:

  • Impaired in your ability to receive and evaluate information or make or communicate decisions
  • Missing or detained, including an incarcerated person

Assuming Shah, a reality TV star known for wearing high-end clothes, throwing lavish parties, and giving extravagant gifts, has accumulated an abundance of wealth and assets, a financial power of attorney would allow her to choose someone she trusts to oversee her finances and property, excluding the 70 counterfeit designer bags and fake jewelry seized by federal authorities in March 2021.

It's looking like Shah will probably serve her sentence at the Federal Prison Camp in Bryan, Texas. Even though it's known as “Club Fed," imprisonment will still make it difficult for Shah to handle her financial affairs. With a financial power of attorney, Shah can give someone legal authority over things like:

  • Real estate transactions and personal property
  • Investments and bank accounts
  • Business dealings and contracts
  • Insurance policies and annuities
  • Lawsuits
  • Bills and expenses to maintain her family's lifestyle
  • Social media and other digital accounts

A financial power of attorney does not give Shah's agent the authority to make health care decisions for her. If Shah wants to delegate medical decision-making powers to someone, she needs to create a health care directive and living will.

Who should Shah name as her agent in a financial power of attorney? It must be an adult and should be someone she trusts. It's common to choose your spouse or another family member or friend, so Shah may choose her husband of 29 years, Sharrieff Shah. Affectionally referred to by his nickname “Coach," he's seemingly stood by and supported Shah since the start of her criminal case. And before coaching football for the University of Utah, Coach was a practicing attorney for 12 years.

How To Get a Power of Attorney

After spending the last two years wrapped up in a federal fraud case, Shah may be sick of dealing with lawyers. Most of the time, you don't need legal representation to make a financial power of attorney document and can create your own.

Online legal services like FindLaw offer financial power of attorney forms that are quick and easy to complete. Plus, FindLaw's power of attorney and other estate planning forms are specifically tailored to comply with state law. You can use the last will and testament form to gift property to beneficiaries and name a guardian for your minor children after your death. You can use the health care directive and living will form to state instructions for your medical care and appoint a health care agent if you lack the capacity to make or communicate your health care wishes.

There are certain legal requirements to properly make a financial power of attorney. You must be an adult of sound mind and take certain steps when completing your documents, like signing in the presence of a notary public. FindLaw includes instructions for finalizing your financial power of attorney according to the requirements in your state.

If you want to know more, you can check out these FAQs about powers of attorney. Oh, and for disclaimer purposes, this isn't an effort to give “shah-mazing" legal advice and was written for informational (and entertainment) purposes only.

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