People name a power of attorney to make legal and financial decisions for them, and a POA may be a family member, spouse, friend, lawyer or even nursing home staff. Along with naming this person, there is an expectation that the POA will do what is in the person’s best interest.
Although most power of attorneys represent the principals’ best interests and values, unfortunately, some POAs use the role for their own personal and financial gains.
Signs of abuse
According to the San Diego State University School of Social Work, Academy for Professional Excellence, power of attorney abuse may not be obvious. However, there are some signs and red flags that indicate that abuse may be going on. Much of POA abuse revolves around financial gain, so some signs include:
- Suspicious, erratic or unusual banking activity
- Lack of amenities or care, even though the person can afford them
- The power of attorney agent is vague about finances
- The agent makes purchases that are not for the client
- The agent isolates the client from family members and friends
If someone identifies that abuse is going on, there may be a variety of legal remedies to pursue, as abuse often constitutes a crime such as theft, embezzlement, exploitation, money laundering, forgery, fraud or larceny.
Tips for choosing a power of attorney
According to Forbes, power of attorney abuses are quite common, and there are steps the principal can take before naming a POA and while dealing with one. To start with, one should choose an agent that is trustworthy, because even when taking legal action there is no guaranty the principal will be able to recover the stolen money.
A person may also choose to name two POA agents, as this reduces the risk of abuse and fraud. It is also important that the principal reads over all documents an agent wants signed. It is worth taking the extra time, effort and money to have an attorney review them so the agent cannot take advantage.