How Can a Power of Attorney Mistake Leave You Penniless?
Smiling woman avoids power of attorney mistakes

How Can a Power of Attorney Mistake Leave You Penniless?

Just before Dorothy Jorgensen’s husband died of cancer, he altered his power of attorney and designated one of his relatives. That relative used the power of attorney to withdraw everything but a few bucks, reports WPRI.com in the article “Son questions power of attorney after mother’s bank account is drained.”

“When I went to pick up a prescription for my mother, there was insufficient funds to pick up a prescription,” Dorothy’s son, Gene Weston, said. “I can’t believe that someone would do that to an elderly woman.”

The couple had been married for almost twenty years. Both had added money to the account.

“My mother is still alive, and my mother needs to continue living,” Weston said.

The son called the police, because he claims there’s no way the power of attorney document for his stepfather was legitimate.

“He was on morphine at the time,” Gene Weston said.

According to a local police report, detectives interviewed several people and found Jorgensen’s husband was “only taking a minimal dose of meds.”

Police determined that Mr. Jorgensen “acted with his own free will” and ended their criminal investigation.

However, these types of cases involving powers of attorney often wind up in civil court. When people make a change to a power of attorney right before their death, it can raise concerns, especially when the person is elderly and on medication.

One thing that many people don’t know, is that they can limit the legal document to protect a surviving spouse or family members.

It’s important to carefully choose an agent and make certain that the power of attorney is properly notarized. You should select a person whom you trust, and whom you know will do the right thing for you, in case you can’t make your own decisions.

The relative who withdrew the money from Jorgensen’s bank account was not willing to speak with a reporter. However, she said that she did nothing wrong. While this may be legally correct, clearly the amount of money taken by the relative that left the widow without any money, was not the right thing to do.

Call Legacy Planning Law Group in Jacksonville, Florida to learn more about how to avoid power of attorney mistakes.

Reference: WPRI 12 (April 15, 2019) “Son questions power of attorney after mother’s bank account is drained”

The People They Trust, Rip Off Seniors the Most

Seniors are frequent victims of financial abuse, whether the crook is a stranger or someone the older adult knows. Sadly, the people they trust rip off seniors the most. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) analyzed the financial exploitation of older Americans, by poring through government reports that looked into suspicious financial activity.

During a recent four-year period, fraudsters stole or tried to steal more than $6 billion from seniors. The criminal activity is increasing, as shown by the fact that the number of annual reports of financial abuse quadrupled during that time. Since many people do not realize they have been the victim of theft or do not report it, the CFPB estimates that the actual losses could be between $2.9 billion and $36.5 billion every year.

The Older You Are, the More They Steal from You

When the victim was between the ages of 70 and 79, the average loss was $45,300. The average amount stolen from people between 60 and 69 was $22,700. Those in their 50s, sustained average losses of $13,400.

Who Is Stealing from Older Americans?

Strangers account for 51 percent of the scams that take money away from seniors. This category includes thing like:

  • Emails that say the older adult owes money to the government or the electric company;
  • Telephone calls claiming that a grandchild has an emergency in another country and needs money wired; or
  • “Romance” scams in which people in other countries have a fake relationship with the lonely senior, just to get him to send them thousands of dollars for the “fiancé” to fly to the United States for a visit. Of course, the person takes the money and breaks off communication with the senior.

The government does not know who the exploiter was in every case. In about 14 percent of the reports, the victim did not identify the perpetrator.

Family members, caregivers, and fiduciaries account for 36 percent of the financial abuse of seniors. A fiduciary is someone who has the authority to manage the older adult’s money, such as a broker, accountant, trustee, guardian, conservator, or someone who has a power of attorney to act on the senior’s behalf.

Who Steals the Most from the Elderly?

The sad truth is that the people they should be able to trust the most, take the lion’s share of the money from older adults. Here is how the amount of theft breaks down, by perpetrator groups:

  • Strangers swipe $17,000 per victim on the average;
  • Family members wrongfully take an average of $42,700 from seniors;
  • The average loss from non-relative caregivers was $57,000; and
  • Fiduciaries stole an average of $83,600 per victim.

How to Prevent Elder Financial Abuse

These tips can help you to shield your aging friends and relatives from becoming victims of financial abuse:

  • Talk with your older loved ones and make sure they understand how to safeguard themselves from the well-known types of rip-offs from strangers. Educate at-risk relatives about suspicious emails, telephone calls, online scams and mail.
  • Set up a system of checks and balances for your loved one’s finances. Never allow the person who provides the caregiving, to manage the person’s money. Have one person perform one task and someone else oversee the finances.
  • Have a two-factor authentication system for any fiduciaries, so someone else always reviews the financial transactions that these people make.
  • Be extremely careful when selecting a fiduciary, whether for yourself or a loved one.

References:

AARP. “Older Americans Hit Hard by Financial Fraud.” (accessed March 23, 2019) https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2019/cfpb-report-financial-elder-abuse.html