It is wise to carefully consider naming a Power of Attorney and Durable Power of Attorney for a Health Care document. It is important to choose wisely, according to the Sandusky Register in “Consumer beware: Understanding the powers of a Power of Attorney”
Abuse is a serious problem for elderly people, because they are vulnerable to people who they trust more than they should. This is also a concern to family members.
This illustrates the importance of a Power of Attorney document: the person, also known as the “principal” is giving the authority to act on their behalf in all financial and personal affairs to another person, known as their “agent.” That means the agent is empowered to do anything and everything the person themselves would do, from making withdrawals from a bank account, to selling a home or a car or more mundane acts, such as paying bills and filing taxes.
The problem is that there is nothing to stop someone, once they have Power of Attorney, from taking advantage of the situation. No one is watching out for the person’s best interests, to make sure bank accounts aren’t drained or assets sold. The agent can abuse that financial power to the detriment of the senior and to benefit the agent themselves. It is a crime when it happens. However, this is what often occurs: seniors are so embarrassed that they gave this power to someone they thought they could trust, that they are reluctant to report the crime.
Similarly, an unchecked Health Care Power of Attorney can lead to abuse, if the wrong person is named.
The following is a real example of how this can go wrong. An adult child arranged for their trusting parent to be diagnosed as suffering from dementia by an unscrupulous psychiatrist, when the parent did not have dementia.
The adult child then had the parent admitted into a nursing home, misrepresenting the admission as a temporary stay for rehabilitation. They then kept the parent in the nursing home, using the dementia diagnosis as a reason for her to remain in the nursing home.
The parent had to hire an attorney and prove to the court that she was competent and able to live independently, to be able to return to her home.
An estate planning attorney can advise you on creating an estate plan that fits your unique circumstances.
Reference: Sandusky Register (Feb. 5, 2019) “Consumer beware: Understanding the powers of a Power of Attorney”