Kanawha Valley Bank v. Friend
In Kanawha Valley Bank v. Friend, 162 W. Va. 925, 253 S.E.2d 528 (1979), the defendant held a general power of attorney for the decedent, Manassah Judy.
While Mr. Judy was alive, the defendant opened joint checking and savings accounts, with rights of survivorship, for the defendant and Mr. Judy. Shortly after opening the accounts, the defendant placed $ 30,000 of Mr. Judy's money in the accounts.
After Mr. Judy died, the bank holding the accounts filed a declaratory judgment action seeking to determine whether to pay the money in the accounts to the defendant or to Mr. Judy's estate.
The trial court ruled that the money should go to the defendant because the accounts were created with survivorship rights. Beneficiaries under Mr. Judy's will filed an appeal with the Court.
The Court reversed the trial court. In doing so, the Court set out the principles that are applicable when a person has a power of attorney for another.
The Court noted in Friend that "a power of attorney creates an agency and this establishes the fiduciary relationship which exists between a principal and agent." Friend, 162 W. Va. at 928, 253 S.E.2d at 530.
Friend further stated:
A corollary to the fiduciary principle is the rule that a presumption of fraud arises where the fiduciary is shown to have obtained any benefit from the fiduciary relationship, as stated in 37 Am. Jur. 2d Fraud and Deceits 441:
"Thus, if in a transaction between parties who stand in a relationship of trust and confidence, the party in whom the confidence is reposed obtains an apparent advantage over the other, he is presumed to have obtained that advantage fraudulently; and if he seeks to support the transaction, he must assume the burden of proof that he has taken no advantage of his influence or knowledge and that the arrangement is fair and conscientious. . . .
(Friend, 162 W. Va. at 929, 253 S.E.2d at 530.)