Financial Abuse and Powers of Attorney
A continuing power of attorney is often utilized as an estate planning tool. However, too often attorneys abuse the powers they have been granted. Financial abuse of the elderly is a serious and growing problem in Canada.
When a grantor gives powers to an attorney to manage the grantor’s property, it allows the attorney to assist the grantor in managing property, and in fact to take over management of property altogether if the grantor does not monitor the situation. Often the objective of the grantor is to allow someone else to completely take over management of one’s property due to age, potential incapacity or other reasons.
The law holds attorneys to a high standard to protect grantors. However, the potential for abuse is immense.
On December 12, 2013, a woman in Prescott Arizona was charged with theft and other charges accusing her of misusing a power of attorney to defraud a 74 year old woman with dementia.
Deborah Verna has been accused of stealing more than $100,000 from the victim.
Police say that Verna cleaned the victim’s house after the victim’s husband died. Verna knew the victim for about four months before she was granted power of attorney. Police have stated that Verna stole approximately $100,000 from the victim, sold the victim’s house to Verna’s family member well below market value and signed the victim’s vehicle over to herself.
In Canada, If someone suspects an attorney for property is abusing the granted legal authority to commit a financial crime, there are options available to protect the vulnerable person. Theft, fraud and forgery conducted under the guise of a POA can be reported to the police and prosecuted under the Criminal Code. In addition, in Ontario, the Public Guardian and Trustee can be contacted to protect an incapable person being victimized by financial abuse.
If you suspect elder abuse it is imperative to contact the appropriate authorities, or contact a lawyer to help protect the vulnerable.
Thank you for reading.