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Mar 15, 2023 by |

Marin County Financial Elder Abuse Attorneys: Use Of Financial Powers Of Attorney To Defraud Seniors

ATTORNEY NEWSLETTER

Attorneys-in-Fact Have Broad Powers

How That Power Is Abused

Remedies For Senior Victims

Financial powers of attorney (POAs) grant full authority over a person’s financial affairs. Medical powers of attorney, known in California as an Advance Health Care Directives (AHCDs), grant authority over medical decisions and health care issues. The forms for both financial POAs and AHCDs are in found in California statutes. See Cal. Prob. Code §§ 4401 (statutory form for financial POA) and 4701 (statutory form for AHCD). The person granting the authority is referred to as the “principal” and the persons to whom the powers are granted are referred to as “agent(s)” under AHCDs or “attorney(s)-in-fact” under financial powers of attorney. Bothe legal instruments are susceptible of being abused by agents and attorneys-in-fact.  An AHCD agent may use their power to isolate a senior in a nursing facility or place them in hospice or other care regimens without telling anyone in their family.  Financial powers of attorney can be used to steal. 

Misuse of financial POAs violates the law, and, when the principal is a senior, also constitutes financial elder abuse, which is both a crime (Penal Code § 368) and grounds for civil liability (Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 15610.30).  Senior victims can seek extra damages and attorneys’ fees and expenses for having to bring a case against a dishonest agent.  Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 15657.5. If an agent has misused a POA to your or an older loved one’s detriment in Marin County or elsewhere in the Bay Area or in California call us at (415)441-8669 or toll free at 1-888-50EVANS (888-503-8267).

Example of POA Misuse

Power of Attorney abuse is the misuse by the agent of the authority granted by the principal to take property from the principal for personal use or to take any other action that is not in the principal’s best interest. Here’s a hypothetical case:  Principal was 85 and ailing when she made a DPA naming an individual as her Attorney-in-Fact. Subsequently, the Attorney-in-Fact used this DPA to sell the Principal’s home. The Attorney-in-Fact placed the sale proceeds into bank accounts that were in the Principal’s name. The Attorney-in-Fact then used her authority under the DPA to withdraw all the money from the Principal’s accounts.

In this illustration, the abuse is the use of the principal’s money for the attorney-in-fact/agent’s own, personal benefit. POA Abuse may also include forging the principal’s signature on the POA, using undue influence to obtain the POA, obtaining the POA when the principal has just had a stroke or suffers from cognitive impairment, or coercing an older person to appoint a POA against his or her wishes.

Remedies 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.  Any relative of an elderly principal has standing under the law to challenge the conduct of an attorney-in-fact for the elder and to force them to account for their transactions.  Probate Code §§ 4540(d) and 4541.  Where the principal is over age 65 or a dependent person (as the principal in the reported case), the misuse also constitutes criminal and civil financial elder or dependent adult abuse under California law.  Penal Code § 368; Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 15610.30.  Damages are also doubled under the Probate Code for any financial abuse of a senior.  Probate Code § 859.  Anyone assisting in taking a senior’s property is also guilty of financial elder abuse under the law.  Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 15610.30.  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.  

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 Marin 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>.

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