What Are Powers of Attorney?
A Power of Attorney (POA) is a very important legal document where the principal authorizes an agent to act on the principal’s behalf. California seniors often execute POAs when their own ability to manage their affairs becomes impaired by illness or loss of cognitive abilities. Seniors especially need to be extremely careful in selecting their agents; POAs give the agent very broad power over all of the principal’s business and financial affairs. Because the POA powers are so broad, we at Evans Law Firm, Inc. recommend principals appoint two or more trusted individuals, so that the agents must always work jointly for all financial matters concerning the principal.
Whatever protections are built in, however, there is always the possibility that the appointed agent(s) will misuse the POA for his or her own benefit to the detriment of the principal. Our Marin County and California elder abuse attorneys represent clients whose agents have misused Powers of Attorney and can litigate against the agent for all possible remedies the law provides the injured principal, including additional damages and awards of attorney’s fees for bringing the case where the victim is a senior. Call us today at (415)441-8669 if you need legal counsel. We only handle cases in California.
Additional Protection for Senior Principals
A recent addition to California elder protection laws, effective this year, gives banks the authority to refuse to honor a Power of Attorney if that bank has previously reported suspicion of financial elder abuse of the senior principal by the named agent. Calif. Welf. & Inst. Code § 15630.1(j)(1). Banks are mandated reporters of suspected financial elder abuse. Calif. Welf. & Inst. Code § 15630.1(a) and the new provision enables banks to take a further step protecting seniors where the bank has previously reported the suspected abuse. The bank is authorized to dishonor the POA only as against the agent who was identified as the suspected abuser in the bank’s initial report of abuse to the local adult protective services agency or local law enforcement where the senior resides.
Whoever suspects financial elder abuse of a senior should report the abuse to adult protective services of the police. But the loved ones of a senior, or the senior victim herself, should also seek the assistance of qualified counsel in order to pursue all remedies available under California law against the wrongdoer.
If a Power of Attorney has been abused remedies include restitution of money lost, other damages, and criminal charges if warranted. If the principal is a senior, California elder abuse laws also provide extra damages and a mandatory award of attorneys’ fees and costs for the injured senior.
To prevent the chances of Power of Attorney elder abuse, seniors should always make sure that they never grant such authority to strangers, and be highly cautious with caregivers, financial advisors, or even family members that suddenly develop a high-level of interest in their financial, or personal affairs. Ask a professional to prepare the Power and have them tailor the power exactly to the authority you wish to grant and under what circumstances the power should spring into effect. Also, always consider our strong recommendation that you appoint more than one person as your agent and require them to act jointly with respect to all your affairs.
If you believe that you or a loved one has suffered Power of Attorney abuse or elder abuse in Marin County or elsewhere in California contact Ingrid Evans and the other California elder abuse attorneys at the Evans Law Firm at 415-441-8669 or or by email at <a href=”mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org”>email@example.com</a>. Our attorneys have experience with complex financial contracts, such as annuities and life insurance, and large insurance companies and cases involving Powers of Attorney, trusts, wills, and other legal instruments. We can help guide your case through a FINRA Arbitration, jury trial or toward an equitable settlement. We handle cases involving physical and financial elder abuse, qui tam and whistleblower law, nursing home abuse, whole life insurance and universal life insurance, and indexed, variable, and fixed annuities.