May 04, 2009

Powers of Attorney: Another Sad Tale

blankcheck.jpgThe Seattle Times reports today that a man stands accused of systematically draining his 93-year old mother's bank accounts, racking up charges on her credit card, and mortgaging her paid-off condo. All after his mother had been hospitalized following a stroke.

While she was in a nursing home, he was, the prosecutors allege, spending her money on trips to casinos, country clubs, tanning salons, and his own health insurance, while leaving her nursing home bills unpaid.

How did he pull this off? Simple: She'd named him as her agent under a durable power of attorney the week before her stroke. With it he was supposed to be making sure that she was well-taken care of. But because that document gave him access to all of her accounts and no one was watching over how he used that authority -- allowing a nursing home bill of $37,000 remain unpaid -- he was able to, or rather stands accused of being able to, use that money for himself instead.

And the moral to this sad story? Be careful who you name to act on your behalf in the event of your incapacity. You really are giving that person a blank check.

Here's a helpful article by Ohio attorney Craig Matthews on how to avoid being the victim of power of attorney fraud: Elder Financial Abuse: Power of Attorney Scams.