power of attorneyPowers of attorneys are powerful documents that are critical for just about any person to have.  This is especially true for older folks who must rely on other people to help manage their affairs. Granting a power of attorney to a TRUSTED friend or loved one is a way to help others shoulder the day to day responsibilities of paying bills and making both mundane and important financial decisions.

But far too often, those who have powers of attorneys for others abuse and misuse the powers that have been given!

In 2014, the Florida Legislature passed a new law designed to increase the penalties and the application of laws dealing with elder abuse.  Titled Exploitation of an Elderly Person, Florida Statutes Chapter 825.103 provides as follows:

(1) “Exploitation of an elderly person or disabled adult” means:

(a) Knowingly obtaining or using, or endeavoring to obtain or use, an elderly person’s or disabled adult’s funds, assets, or property with the intent to temporarily or permanently deprive the elderly person or disabled adult of the use, benefit, or possession of the funds, assets, or property, or to benefit someone other than the elderly person or disabled adult, by a person who:

1. Stands in a position of trust and confidence with the elderly person or disabled adult; or
2. Has a business relationship with the elderly person or disabled adult;
(b) Obtaining or using, endeavoring to obtain or use, or conspiring with another to obtain or use an elderly person’s or disabled adult’s funds, assets, or property with the intent to temporarily or permanently deprive the elderly person or disabled adult of the use, benefit, or possession of the funds, assets, or property, or to benefit someone other than the elderly person or disabled adult, by a person who knows or reasonably should know that the elderly person or disabled adult lacks the capacity to consent;

(c) Breach of a fiduciary duty to an elderly person or disabled adult by the person’s guardian, trustee who is an individual, or agent under a power of attorney which results in an unauthorized appropriation, sale, or transfer of property. An unauthorized appropriation under this paragraph occurs when the elderly person or disabled adult does not receive the reasonably equivalent financial value in goods or services, or when the fiduciary violates any of these duties.

 

When you read this you should note first just how broad and expansive the definitions are.  When you think about those definitions in the context of a family member or friend who uses a power of attorney for another, you begin to understand just how careful a person acting under a POA must be to prevent good faith allegations of wrongdoing serving as the basis for real action.  There is a warning here for anyone using a power of attorney….keep good records and make sure that every single charge, expense and action taken is justified.
And to family members or friends of loved ones….make sure you know that you have an obligation to the person who gave the power of attorney to make sure it is used correctly!  If you suspect abuse…call us!

 
 

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