Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Power of Attorney: 'People don't realize the extent of the power they're giving'

Before a Bensalem man entered Bucks County prison to serve a 10-month sentence, he asked his fiancée to watch over his finances.

She made sure his bills were paid -- as well as her own, unbeknownst to him, police said.
In a matter of months, the woman spent nearly $230,000 on vacations, breast implants, home repairs, furniture, school tuition and financial penalties, police added.

She cashed in certificates of deposit and bonds in his name; withdrew money from his IRA, incurring penalties; and she wrote checks for her business and personal attorneys, authorities added. She opened credit cards in his name, too, they said.

The woman even attempted to obtain a loan on the man’s home, according to Bensalem police, who filed theft, forgery and related criminal charges against her in December.

But recently, the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office withdrew all charges against the 51-year-old Warrington woman, a decision that didn’t surprise some attorneys.

That's because the woman had the legal authority to spend her boyfriend’s money. And that is the power behind the power of attorney, a legal document granting its holder the ability to act on another’s behalf in private affairs, business or legal matters.

When used appropriately, the document is a valid tool to protect assets and pay bills for someone who's unable to oversee or control his or her financial interests. It also avoids the more drastic measure of appointing a legal guardian, legal experts and consumer advocates say.

But there are many misconceptions about how power of attorney works, said Debra Kroll, a law professor at Temple University’s James Beasley School of Law.

Among the most prevalent mistakes is the belief that once granted power of attorney, the person has sole control over the representative’s financial decisions. Not true, said Kroll, who teaches about law and aging. The agent can make financial decisions only if the person is mentally incapacitated.

Full Article & Source:
Power of Attorney: 'People don't realize the extent of the power they're giving'


Betty said...

This is true and it's also why PoA theft is so hard to prove.

StandUp said...

The probem expands. It starts out as financial exploitation via PoA abuse and then escalates until guardianship abuse.

It's very sad.