[July 1] a new law takes effect in Illinois that will provide critical protections for thousands of individuals, particularly older adults, who utilize a power of attorney and could fall victim to financial exploitation at the hands of individuals entrusted with making their financial decisions as a power of attorney. The law, Public Act 96-1195, was sponsored by State Representative Emily McAsey and passed unanimously in both houses of the General Assembly before being signed into law by Governor Quinn in July 2010.
"A power of attorney is a responsibility that should be taken very seriously - it is not a license to steal," said Bob Gallo, AARP Illinois State Director. "Individuals who designate a power of attorney must be able to trust that their financial decisions are in good hands. AARP strongly supported this legislation and we are proud to see it enacted today."
In Illinois, financial exploitation, including abuse at the hands of a power of attorney, is the most commonly reported form of elder abuse, constituting nearly 60% of all elder abuse reports in the state. On a national level, it is estimated that elder financial abuse costs victims more than $2.9 billion each year.
"Considering the broad authority granted in a power of attorney and the economic impact of financial abuse, it is critical that there are adequate protections in place for both the principal and the agent," added Gallo.
The new law amends the Illinois Power of Attorney Act to provide greater protections for the individual granting the power of attorney, the agent receiving it, and the persons who are asked to rely on the agent's authority. Most importantly, the law creates liability for the agent in cases of abuse. If an agent violates the law, he/she will now be required to repay what was stolen (the original law did not mandate repayment). The new law also clarifies to the consumer the guidelines, duties and allowances of the power of attorney and provides clearer guidelines for the agent to act in good faith and in the best interest of the principal.
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Critical Consumer Protection Law Takes Effect in Illinois