Elderly people and seniors are progressively victims of rip-offs. Abuses by attorneys in truth are among the worst. Elder Financial Abuse: Power of Attorney Scams – How to safeguard senior citizens from abuse of a power of attorney by family or good friends, and how to find this type of monetary abuse.
Financial scams targeting senior citizens are typical. Disturbingly, a growing variety of these rip-offs involve family members, loved ones, or buddies who take loan from an elder when the elder grants them a financial power of attorney. In these power of attorney frauds, the member of the family or friend often declares the cash was taken for safekeeping because the elder was senile or required to be protected from making bad financial choices. The elder may lose their house, savings, or other loan and property through power of attorney scams.
Older Americans are susceptible to fraud and financial abuse due to the fact that they frequently experience some degree of cognitive decline– through natural causes or from medications– and can have problem comprehending their changing world. The Internet, desktop computers, devices with complicated controls, and other indicia of modern life can speed up disorientation of an aging mind, and seniors who spend the majority of their time at house can feel separated and alone. (To get more information about monetary scams targeting seniors in basic, see Nolo’s post Elder Abuse: Financial Scams Versus Seniors.)
As the variety of elders in the general population quickly increases, there will likely be a corresponding boost in monetary frauds involving an unapproved use of a power of attorney. People with elderly enjoyed ones, caretakers of senior citizens, and seniors themselves can avoid or treat these frauds by learning how they work, what steps to require to avoid becoming a victim of a power of attorney fraud, and what legal claims are available in the event of a scam.
A Normal Power of Attorney Abuse Case
A case I dealt with years ago demonstrates how a common power of attorney scam works. My customer, a senior retired gentleman, lived alone with no instant family. One day he suffered an injury that needed his hospitalization. He understood he would be far from home for weeks and was stressed about paying his bills. His nephew reached the health center 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 senior man had actually returned home, his nephew had actually robbed him blind, utilizing the power of attorney to close bank and investment accounts. Guaranteeing his uncle he was simply keeping the cash safe, the nephew had instead transferred the cash to an accomplice, who in turn invested it in a mobile house development in South Carolina.
When the uncle sued, the nephew kept that his uncle had gifted him the cash out of love and affection, and the power of attorney was proof of the trust his uncle placed in him.
What Is a Power of Attorney?
A power of attorney is a written authorization offering one person the legal authority to act for another person, usually concerning financial affairs like savings account and investments. (To find out more about powers of lawyer, consisting of the various types and how to make one, see Nolo’s Financial Powers of Attorney subject.)
In the hands of somebody trustworthy, a power of attorney can be a crucial tool to handle the financial resources of an elder who has become permanently or temporarily unable to manage financial affairs. However, in the hands of a monetary predator or a greedy member of the family, a power of attorney can be used to covertly take loan and possessions, readily bypassing the regular safeguards that are utilized by financial institutions.
Power of Lawyer Abuse Cases: Legal Claims
If you or a loved one is the victim of fraud or monetary abuse including an unapproved usage of a power of attorney, it is necessary to act quickly. Usually, the very best course of action is to call a lawyer. The attorney can help you in revoking the power of attorney, demanding the return of the taken cash and property, and, if required, submitting a suit. (You can use Nolo’s Lawyer Directory site to discover a lawyer in your area.)
The most common legal claims in a case involving the abuse of a power of attorney are “breach of fiduciary responsibility” and “conversion.” Both of these claims are based upon a legal idea called “fiduciary duty.” When an elder signs a power of attorney, it creates a fiduciary relationship between the elder (called the “principal”) and the person who is licensed to act on behalf of the elder (called the “agent”). Under this fiduciary task, the agent owes the elder a task to act with the utmost great faith and loyalty when acting upon behalf of the elder.
Breach of fiduciary responsibility. When an elder indications a power of attorney, the fiduciary responsibility created by the file imposes particular responsibilities on the agent. For example:
u2022 The agent must keep the elder informed of things that impact the elder’s interests.
If the agent stops working to act in accordance with these fiduciary tasks of fidelity and great faith, the representative may be liable for breaching (that is, breaking) the fiduciary duty.
Conversion. An agent who utilizes an elder’s possessions for his or her own advantage may likewise be responsible for conversion of the elder’s property. In order to develop conversion of property, the elder (or the elder’s lawyer) needs to show that the offender handled or utilized the elder’s property in such a way that was irregular with the elder’s rights of ownership. When the agent has actually used a power of attorney to transform the property, it must also be shown that 1) the elder required the return of the property, and 2) the accused declined to provide the property to the elder.
If the elder is effective in a lawsuit for breach of fiduciary responsibility or conversion, the court will buy the accused to return the taken property. The court or jury might also need that the defendant pay the complainant’s lawyers’ costs. And, if the accused’s conduct was particularly outright or involved elements of fraud, the court may award punitive damages to the elder. In the case discussed above (about the uncle and nephew), the jury granted the uncle the complete quantity of money that his nephew stole, along with punitive damages, interest, and attorneys’ costs. Happily, the uncle was eventually able to collect every cent of the judgment.
Preventing Power of Attorney Scams
Not all elder victims of power of attorney rip-offs 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 type of suits. If you or a liked one strategies to utilize a power of attorney, take steps to secure versus rip-offs. Or, if you or a liked one is scammed, act quickly to correct the situation. Here’s how:
u2022 Do not approve a power of attorney to anyone unless you understand the individual well and entirely trust him or her.
By: Craig T. Matthews, a company, work, and lawsuits lawyer from the Dayton, OH location.