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Couples who filed joint returns must now file separate powers of attorney.

The IRS makes little changes all the time and while not all such changes are life threatening (or estate plan threatening, as is more likely) the devil is often in the details. 

In the interest of tracking changes, then, it’s worth noting that the IRS is changing its filing practices for power of attorney. As pointed out here in the Journal of Accountancy, the IRS will no longer be accepting the old version of form 2848 and will only be accepting the new version that has been available since October 2011. 

What’s interesting is that while the old form allowed a husband and wife who filed a joint tax return to also jointly file for power of attorney, the new procedure doesn’t allow this. Now, such couples will have to file their power of attorney documents “separately,” even if they file for the same individual and even if they file taxes jointly. 

This won’t affect couples who have already filed, and only marks a turning point in a certain kind of filing; that is to say that it seems minor at best. Nevertheless, this change means that the IRS is working to acknowledge spouses separately (at least to a certain extent). 

For estate planners it has to mean the opposite; that couples will have to work ever more intently together as a partnership. Is this a trend that will continue in all aspects? Further, it may also be worth thinking about whether this is how you and your spouse plan (or ought to plan). 

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Reference: The Journal of Accountancy (February 6, 2012) “Couples who filed joint returns must now file separate powers of attorney”