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Durable power of attorney abuse: Watch out for mistreatment

Durable power of attorney abuse is a significant concern for people who have family members who have a POA established. If an elder or any party who needs a POA faces abuse from their POA, they may need support from adult protective services, the criminal justice system or others to help protect them.

Durable power of attorney abuse occurs when the agent misuses their powers granted by their principal (the individual who requires a POA). A durable power of attorney is supposed to care for the individual, either by taking care of their finances or by working to provide for their health care and other needs after incapacity. Violating that role can lead to legal challenges down the line, such as complaints of misusing the role.

What are some examples of durable power of attorney abuse?

Imagine that your mother is 85 and in declining health. She is unable to make decisions for herself any longer, so her POA goes into effect. Her POA is meant to take care of her finances by paying her bills and taking care of expenses, but instead, that individual uses their power to sell her home and put the money into your mother's bank account. Over time, you notice that the money seems to disappear, yet that POA continues to have new clothing, a new vehicle and other expensive assets that you know they couldn't afford before.

If your mother or others in the family realize what has happened, the police could be called. However, it can be hard to get back money once it's stolen in this way. It is possible to sue and to seek support through the civil justice system, which is one option if a situation like this happens to you.

Another possible example would be if a person with POA decides to start paying their own bills with money withdrawn from your parent's account. It might be hard to track, but regular, and unusual, withdrawals of large amounts might require further investigation to find out where that money is going.

If you believe that your loved one has been taken advantage of by a person with durable power of attorney, you should reach out to an attorney to discuss your options. It may be possible to have the person step down from the role and to seek to have any money stolen returned to the estate and to the victim.

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