As we age, we often rely on others to help us manage our daily affairs. That trust becomes a legal obligation once a power of attorney is in place.
Powers of attorney are written authorization for one person to act on the behalf of another in financial and personal matters. Someone designated as an “agent” under a power of attorney agreement may manage or sell real or personal property on the behalf of another person, for example.
Powers of attorney can be limited or broad. Most durable powers of attorney, however, allow the agent to do almost anything that the other party could do, legally speaking. In Connecticut, powers of attorney are presumed to be durable (which means they remain in effect if the person on whose behalf the agent is acting becomes mentally incapacitated) unless otherwise specified.
As you can imagine, this power comes with significant responsibility. Unfortunately, not every agent acts in the best interest of the people they represent. Unethical agents may steal money, commit elder abuse, transfer assets to themselves, attempt to disinherit legal heirs or make decisions that enrich themselves at the expense of the person they are supposed to represent.
When power of attorney abuse occurs, the Connecticut legal system provides the means for you to stop it.
How to Contest Power of Attorney Abuse
There are several legal options for stopping power of attorney abuse in the state of Connecticut. The person covered under the power of attorney (the principal) or their attorney may challenge the agreement by asserting the agent breached his or her fiduciary duty to the principal. This duty requires the agent to operate solely in the best interest of the principal. Commingling or misappropriating assets, abusing a principal or enriching the agent at the expense of the principal are all common examples of breaches of the fiduciary duty.
Failure to maintain accurate and current financial accounting is also a breach of the agent’s fiduciary duty. When challenging the actions of an agent acting under a power of attorney, it is important to ask for an immediate accounting, as unethical agents may rapidly deplete a principal’s assets.
Another claim that may be brought against an agent is conversion, which is a legal concept similar to theft. A conversion claim states that the agent took an asset that belonged to the principal then failed to return it, causing the principal to suffer damages.
Agents who engage in elder abuse are subject to Connecticut’s strong laws governing the mistreatment of the elderly, and violation of these laws may lead to the end an abusive power of attorney agreement and also may result in criminal prosecution.
How to Find the Right Attorney
Ultimately, plaintiffs must convince a court to intervene on behalf of a victimized principal. Having access to experienced legal counsel is critically important, as the process for contesting an agreement may be lengthy and complex. If you or someone you love need help, we urge you to contact Brickley Law today.