The commission of financial abuse through the power of attorney is such a widespread problem that elderlaw attorneys call it a license to steal. A power of attorney is an authorization for one person to act on another's behalf in a legal or business matter. The person authorized to act is called the agent and the person granting the authorization is the principal. A durable power of attorney is a power that starts or continues after the principal becomes incapacitated.
The prevalence of financial abuse through agents' misuse of the power of attorney was reviewed in a 2002 national study conducted by the National Conference of Commissioners of Uniform State Laws. In 2006, the commission passed the revised Uniform Power of Attorney Act (UPAA), which is being recommended for adoption in all states. The proposed uniform act incorporates various protections aimed at preventing abuse.
A NEW FRAMEWORK
The new framework of the UPAA clarifies the fiduciary, or trust, responsibilities of designated agents, who cannot exploit the power of attorney in their own interest rather than the best interest of the principal. Other interested individuals, such as immediate family members or presumptive heirs, could go to court with legal standing to request an accounting by the agent. …