Power of attorney gives someone the legal authority to act for someone else. It is common for aging adults to authorize a trusted agent to make financial or medical decisions on their behalf upon the loss of mental or physical capacity.
While those with power of attorney should follow ethical principles when performing their duties, many abuse the privilege for their own financial gain.
During the estate planning process, elders often grant power of attorney to a grown child or another family member they trust. While this individual should be caring, honorable and trustworthy, he or she may take advantage of their aging loved one by withdrawing funds for personal gain.
While most attorneys practicing elder law look out for the best interests of their clients, some bad actors are claiming to be reliable and are using their legal knowledge to commit power of attorney abuse and avoid detection.
A common and terrifying financial scheme involves a scammer manipulating someone into signing over power of attorney with the promise of managing their affairs. Often, the victim is an elderly person living in a nursing home. The fraudster uses the legal document to gain access to assets and bank accounts, stealing money and property. By the time victims and family members learn about the fraud, it is often too late.
If you suspect a loved one has fallen victim to power of attorney abuse, you should report your suspicion to law enforcement immediately, and learn about your options for protection going forward.