A power of attorney gives a person control over someone else's affairs. There should be a relationship of trust between the two parties. However, if a person is elderly or incapacitated, he or she can be taken advantage of. This leads to power of attorney abuse.
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Power of Attorney
A power of attorney is a legal document that allows a person, the principal, to appoint an agent to act on the principal's behalf. This is often done for elderly individuals who are becoming mentally incapacitated. A durable power of attorney allows the agent to continue acting on a principal's behalf even after the principal is completely incapacitated.
The Agent's Duty
The agent appointed to serve as the power of attorney has a duty to be trustworthy and act in the best interest of the principal.
Occasionally agents misuse their power of attorney authority, most often when the principal is elderly or incapacitated. Agents sometimes use the power of attorney for their own financial benefit, stealing the principal's money, transferring property into the agent's name or opening credit card accounts in the principal's name.
Financial power of attorney abuse involves violation of both federal and state laws. The crimes most often committed are:
- Theft - Forgery - Embezzlement - Fraud (including credit card, tax and welfare fraud)
Signs of Financial Power of Attorney Abuse
If you suspect that a friend or relative is the victim of financial power of attorney abuse, these are some signs to look for:
- There are unusual transfers of property from the principal to the agent, for instance the title to the principal's home.
- There is unusual bank activity, especially frequent or large withdrawals.
- The agent avoids discussing the principal's financial matters.
If you are aware that any of the above is taking place, please visit the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) website at http://www.ncea.aoa.gov. Also, seek advice from an attorney to have the situation investigated and the power of attorney revoked.
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