Power of Attorney: May 2009 Archives

May 13, 2009

Not Munchkins, too? Seems Over the Rainbow Somehow

rainbow.JPGIn what's starting to seem like a series on the ways in which powers of attorney can cause heartache -- or worse, elder abuse -- comes a story out of St. Louis. The heirs of one of the last surviving Munchkins from the film The Wizard of Oz, Mickey Carroll (real name, Michael Finocchiaro), are suing his caretaker, Linda Dodge, claiming that she and others took advantage of the actor in his final years.

The heirs claim that Mr. Carroll, who died Thursday, May 7, signed powers of attorney transferring power over his property and health care decisions to Dodge when he was unable to understand what he was signing. They further claim that Dodge then kept him isolated, spent his assets, and kept the money that Carroll made from appearing at events.

Dodge counters that the dispute is just a "family squabble" and that she took good care of Carroll.

To learn more about financial powers of attorney, see Nolo's article Financial Powers of Attorney: Do You Need One?.

May 6, 2009

What to Do When You Move

moving van.jpg
People often ask me what to do with their estate plans when they move to another state. Here's the answer: if you think you're going to be in that new state for a while, it makes sense to update your estate plan to reflect that state's laws.

It's not that your estate plan will be invalid in another state. With the exception of gay marriage (in some states), contracts signed in one state are valid in another. But it can create inconvenience for your heirs if they have to administer an estate under, say, California law, if a parent died while residing in Georgia -- especially if the kids live in Georgia too.

Also, powers of attorney, which are important legal documents granting another person the right to act on your behalf with respect to property and health care, are created by state law, and your rights, especially with respect to health care decisions, vary from state to state. For that reason, and additionally because banks and doctors like working with forms that they know, it's a good idea to at least create new powers of attorney if you move to a new state.

For a comprehensive guide to estate planning essentials, see Plan Your Estate, by Denis Clifford (Nolo).

May 4, 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.