Nursing Home Justice Blog

How Power of Attorney Can Be Used for Elder Abuse

Written By:

Attorney Mac Hester

Date Posted:

January 15, 2023

Nursing home residents are typically in the most weakened state of their life, mentally, physically, and emotionally. Suppose they create a Power of Attorney and become incapacitated. In that case, their assigned agent will have complete control over their financial affairs and can make decisions that directly impact their estate for better or worse.

With this much power in one person’s hands, abuse often occurs, leaving the resident helpless.

What Is Power of Attorney Abuse?

A Durable Power of Attorney is a legal document that allows an individual—called the principal—to give authority to another individual—called an agent—to make vital financial and medical decisions on the principal’s behalf should they become incapacitated, unable to handle their own affairs.

The assigned agent must uphold their fiduciary duty and only make decisions in the principal’s best interest. When they don’t, abuse occurs in the form of stolen money or assets.

How Could a Power of Attorney Be Abused?

Given the broad powers granted to the agent, the Power of Attorneys is frequently abused in several ways. From forging signatures to withdrawing lucrative amounts of cash for personal gain, abusers could destroy everything a resident has worked for. This type of abuse often violates many federal and state laws, including:

  • Embezzlement
  • Forgery
  • Fraud
  • Larceny
  • Money Laundering
  • Exploitation

Who’s Most At Risk for Power of Attorney Abuse?

Nursing home residents are common victims of Power of Attorney abuse. In their weakened condition, they might select a “trusted” individual to handle their estate only to find out later that their assigned agent has cleaned out their entire life savings while they were recovering.

Patients with dementia, Alzheimer’s, or other cognitive impairments are especially vulnerable to POA abuse, given their current circumstances. Residents might sign a POA without fully understanding what the document entails, giving a stranger complete control over their assets. If the patient’s mental condition is severe enough, they might not even remember doing so.

Furthermore, residents that lack close family often become victims of POA abuse since abusers can forge signatures or access funds without anyone there to ask questions.

Warning Signs of Power of Attorney Abuse

Since most POA abuse cases involve financial theft, one could typically follow a paper trail, and relatives who keep close tabs on their loved ones in nursing home care could easily detect this suspicious activity. Pay attention to the following signs of POA abuse:

  • Unexplained cash withdrawals
  • Sudden spikes in credit card activity
  • Sudden transfers or recent changes in your loved one’s finances
  • Signatures that seem forged
  • Unexplained disappearance of funds
  • Your loved one seems neglected and intentionally isolated from you

What to Do if You Suspect POA Abuse

If you suspect POA abuse, you must act quickly to prevent further damage to your or your loved one’s assets. According to the Colorado Bar, you should immediately revoke the Power of Attorney and notify anyone or any institution who might have copies of it.

You could also contact Adult Protective Services if you suspect anyone else is experiencing POA abuse. Lastly, you have a right to file a civil claim against the at-fault party responsible for your POA abuse. An attorney could gather evidence and assist you in recovering the money you lost.

Call Nursing Home Justice Today to Regain What You Lost

If your loved one is incapacitated, and suspicious activity has made you question whether the POA agent has the right intentions, call Nursing Home Justice as soon as possible.

We’ll gather the evidence you need to hold all liable parties accountable for their actions. Contact us today by calling (303) 775-8128 to schedule your free consultation.

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