What Are My Options When Power of Attorney is Abused?
Granting someone power of attorney is a major responsibility, as that person is given wide latitude over things such as finances and property decisions. Unfortunately, not every person granted this power can be trusted to act ethically and responsibly. According to the MetLife Mature Market Institute, older Americans lose $2.9 billion annually to financial abuse — and a significant amount of this abuse occurs under power of attorney agreements.
So how does one take steps to prevent power of attorney abuse from occurring in Connecticut? Let’s take a closer look.
Power of Attorney Rights
Power of attorney grants another person the right to act as your legal agent. There are four primary forms of power of attorney:
- Limited — this is the narrowest version of power of attorney. An example might be granting someone the temporary right to sign a document for you when traveling out of town.
- General — this grants all the rights that you yourself hold. Someone with general power of attorney can sign documents, pay bills, make financial decisions etc.
- Durable — this may be limited or general, and stays in effect until death or revocation.
- Springing — this version of power of attorney does not become active until the person whom it covers is deemed to be incapacitated.
Typically, a power of attorney document remains in effect until the person who grants the authority revokes the document, dies or becomes incapacitated.
Common Forms of Abuse
Those acting as a legal agent under a power of attorney agreement have a legal obligation to act as a fiduciary and represent the best financial interests of the donor (the person who grants power of attorney). However, in some cases, agents choose to enrich themselves at the donor’s expense. Agents may forge documents, or even coerce someone into signing a power of attorney under duress.
How to Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones
One of the best ways to prevent power of attorney fraud and abuse is to involve an attorney early in the process. An attorney can ensure that power of attorney agreements are drafted in a clear and compliant fashion. This helps eliminate any gray areas or misunderstandings between the parties, and can help clarify the true wishes of a donor.
Even the most carefully drafted agreements can’t prevent someone from engaging in outright theft or deceit, however. In some cases, it is necessary to take legal action to stop abuse from occurring. Courts can be petitioned to order an accounting of how money is being spent, and those acting as a legal agent can be sued or prosecuted for misappropriation of funds or other activities. In some cases financial transactions may be reversed. Courts may also remove legal agents and appoint new guardians, in the case of incapacitation.
Navigating this process can be quite difficult, however, so it is advisable to seek help from an experienced local attorney when pursuing changes to a power of attorney agreement or drafting a new agreement.
Fighting for Your Legal Rights
At Brickley Law, we take pride in our reputation as tireless advocates for people being abused under power of attorney agreements. If you need assistance with such a scenario — or you need help drafting a power of attorney agreement — we urge you to contact us today for a free consultation.