Senior Financial Abuse
Elderly people and seniors are increasingly victims of scams. Abuses by attorneys in truth are amongst the worst. Elder Financial Abuse: Power of Attorney Scams – How to secure elders from abuse of a power of attorney by family or buddies, and how to spot this kind of financial abuse.
Financial scams targeting elders prevail. Disturbingly, a growing variety of these frauds involve family members, relatives, or friends who take money from an elder when the elder grants them a financial power of attorney. In these power of attorney rip-offs, the relative or buddy typically declares the cash was considered safekeeping due to the fact that the elder was senile or required to be safeguarded from making bad monetary decisions. The elder might lose their house, nest egg, or other money and property through power of attorney scams.
Older Americans are vulnerable to scams and monetary abuse since they commonly experience some degree of cognitive decline– through natural causes or from medications– and can have trouble understanding their shifting world. The Web, individual computers, appliances with complicated controls, and other indicia of contemporary life can accelerate disorientation of an aging mind, and elders who spend many of their time in the house can feel separated and alone. (To read more about financial scams targeting senior citizens in general, see Nolo’s short article Elder Abuse: Financial Scams Versus Elders.)
As the variety of seniors in the basic population rapidly increases, there will likely be a matching boost in financial frauds involving an unapproved usage of a power of attorney. People with elderly liked ones, caretakers of seniors, and seniors themselves can avoid or treat these frauds by finding out how they work, what steps to require to avoid becoming a victim of a power of attorney fraud, and what legal claims are offered in case of a scam.
A Common Power of Attorney Abuse Case
A case I dealt with years ago shows how a typical power of attorney rip-off works. My client, a senior retired gentleman, lived alone without any instant family. One day he suffered an injury that needed his hospitalization. He knew he would be away from house for weeks and was stressed over paying his bills. His nephew came to the medical facility with flowers and a deal to help.
The next day the nephew appeared with a power of attorney, which his uncle signed. By the time the elderly guy had returned home, his nephew had robbed him blind, utilizing the power of attorney to close bank and investment accounts. Ensuring his uncle he was merely keeping the money safe, the nephew had instead moved the money to an accomplice, who in turn invested it in a mobile home advancement in South Carolina.
When the uncle sued, the nephew kept that his uncle had talented him the loan out of love and love, and the power of attorney was evidence of the trust his uncle positioned in him.
What Is a Power of Attorney?
A power of attorney is a written authorization offering someone the legal authority to act for another person, typically concerning monetary affairs like bank accounts and investments. (To get more information about powers of lawyer, including the various types and how to make one, see Nolo’s Financial Powers of Lawyer topic.)
In the hands of someone trustworthy, a power of attorney can be an important tool to handle the financial resources of an elder who has become permanently or temporarily unable to manage financial affairs. But, in the hands of a financial predator or a greedy member of the family, a power of attorney can be used to secretly steal cash and assets, easily bypassing the typical safeguards that are used by financial institutions.
Power of Lawyer Abuse Cases: Legal Claims
If you or a loved one is the victim of fraud or financial abuse including an unauthorized usage of a power of attorney, it’s essential to act quickly. Usually, the finest course of action is to contact a lawyer. The attorney can assist you in withdrawing the power of attorney, requiring the return of the stolen cash and property, and, if required, submitting a lawsuit. (You can use Nolo’s Attorney Directory to find a lawyer in your location.)
The most common legal claims in a case including the abuse of a power of attorney are “breach of fiduciary task” and “conversion.” Both of these claims are based upon a legal idea referred to as “fiduciary duty.” When an elder indications a power of attorney, it produces a fiduciary relationship between the elder (called the “primary”) and the person who is licensed to act on behalf of the elder (called the “agent”). Under this fiduciary responsibility, the representative owes the elder a task to show the utmost good faith and commitment when acting upon behalf of the elder.
Breach of fiduciary task. When an elder indications a power of attorney, the fiduciary duty developed by the file enforces particular responsibilities on the agent. For example:
u2022 The agent should keep the elder notified of things that affect the elder’s interests.
If the agent fails to act in accordance with these fiduciary responsibilities of fidelity and excellent faith, the agent may be liable for breaching (that is, breaking) the fiduciary duty.
Conversion. An agent who uses an elder’s properties for his/her own advantage might also be accountable for conversion of the elder’s property. In order to develop conversion of property, the elder (or the elder’s lawyer) must show that the defendant managed or used the elder’s property in a manner that was irregular with the elder’s rights of ownership. When the representative has used a power of attorney to transform the property, it must likewise be revealed that 1) the elder demanded the return of the property, and 2) the defendant declined to deliver the property to the elder.
If the elder achieves success in a suit for breach of fiduciary duty or conversion, the court will purchase the offender to return the stolen property. The court or jury might also require that the defendant pay the complainant’s attorneys’ costs. And, if the defendant’s conduct was especially outright or involved components of scams, the court may award compensatory damages to the elder. For example, in the case talked about above (about the uncle and nephew), the jury granted the uncle the full amount of cash that his nephew stole, together with compensatory damages, interest, and attorneys’ charges. Happily, the uncle was ultimately able to collect every cent of the judgment.
Preventing Power of Attorney Scams
Not all elder victims of power of attorney scams are as fortunate as the uncle in the example case. Tracing how the taken money goes from A to Z is difficult, nor is pursuing these sort of suits. If you or a loved one strategies to utilize a power of attorney, take steps to protect against rip-offs. Or, if you or a liked one is scammed, act quickly to treat the circumstance. Here’s how:
u2022 Do not approve a power of attorney to anybody unless you know the individual well and completely trust him or her.
By: Craig T. Matthews, a service, employment, and litigation lawyer from the Dayton, OH area.