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Oct 5, 2022 by |

Los Angeles Financial Elder Abuse Attorneys: Pastor Charged With Financial Elder Abuse And Abuse Of Financial Power Of Attorney

ATTORNEY NEWSLETTER

Allegedly Improper Money Transfers And Credit Card Use

Allegedly Used POA to Write Checks To Himself 

Elderly Victims Left With No Money In Account

Powers of attorney (POAs) grant the agents appointed under them full legal authority to act for the principal who executes the POA.  The person appointed under the POA is called the Principal’s Attorney-in-Fact and the Attorney-in-Fact’s authority extends to almost every form of financial transaction unless the POA specifically limits his or powers. See Cal. Prob. Code §§ 4401 (statutory form for financial POA). The potential for abuse of such broad power is always present.  Misuse of a POA abuse includes outright theft of the principal’s money or property and, in a broader sense, making any decision or taking any action that is not in the donor’s best interest.  Even for the most trustworthy attorney-in-fact, the burden of making decisions for a principal is a heavy one.  Therefore, we recommend you appoint two trusted individuals as agents under any POA to act jointly.  We also recommend that you never, ever, grant a Power of Attorney to a caregiverCaregivers and others can wield their POA power to change a principal’s entire estate plan and redirect the principal’s assets to themselves.  If an agent has misused a POA to your or an older loved one’s detriment in Los Angeles,  Orange County or elsewhere in California call us at (415)441-8669 or toll free at 1-888-50EVANS (888-503-8267).

Example Of Financial Elder Abuse By Power Of Attorney

In a recently reported case,[1] a pastor has been accused of property theft worth $30,000 to $150,000 (against an elderly individual), and money laundering and enhanced property theft worth $30,000 to $150,000.  His case has been set for trial.  The charges stem from accusations that the minister used bank transfers and credit cards to steal from two elderly congregation members as well as stealing from the previous church he led and a private, charitable foundation.  Police documents state that the pastor unlawfully took money from an elderly couple in his congregation using multiple check withdrawals and ATM transactions while he was serving as their power of attorney over finances.  The document states the pastor used the funds he took for car payments and hotel rooms. The victims’ son stated the pastor left just 28 cents in his parents’ bank accounts.  The son has since taken guardianship over his parents, which supersedes power of attorney. According to the indictments, the pastor also took between $30,000 and $150,000 from a charitable foundation and the previous church where he served as pastor.  In the indictment for the money laundering charge, the pastor is accused of transferring the proceeds from theft, misapplication of fiduciary property, forgery and credit card abuse between bank accounts for a period of almost four years.

Remedies Against Attorneys-in-Fact For Misuse Of POAs

Misuse of a POA is grounds for civil liability of twice any amounts taken and attorneys’ fees for the victim. Probate Code § 4231.5.  Where the principal is over age 65 the misuse also constitutes criminal and civil financial elder abuse under California law.  Penal Code § 368; Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 15610.30.  Agents who wrongfully take the property of seniors are responsible not only for twice the amount taken under the Probate Code but also, under the Elder Abuse Act, enhanced damages.  Both the Probate Code and the Elder Abuse Act grant the injured senior attorneys’ fees and expenses incurred in suing to get their property back. Probate Code § 4231.5(c); Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 15657.5.  In addition to straightforward theft, California law also prohibits an agent from designating beneficiaries or creating future (or survivorship) interests in the principal’s property unless specifically authorized to do so in a POA.  Cal. Prob. Code § 4264.  The agent is strictly prohibited from making or revoking the principal’s Will. Cal. Prob. Code § 4265. 

Contact Us

Ingrid M. Evans can represent you if an agent has misused a Power of Attorney granted by you or an older loved one in Los Angeles, Orange County or elsewhere in California.  If you need help, call us today at 415-441-8669 or toll free at 1-888-50EVANS (888-503-8267).or by email at <a href=”mailto:info@evanslaw.com”>info@evanslaw.com</a>. Ingrid will pursue all remedies available against the agent, including attorneys’ fees and expenses for the older person required to bring an action based on the agent’s wrongful conduct.

[1] Evans Law Firm, Inc. was not involved in the reported case in any way.

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