What Can I Do if I Suspect That Someone Given Power of Attorney Is Acting Fraudulently?

15 answers | Last updated: Apr 22, 2014
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Caring.com User - Barbara Kate Repa
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Barbara Repa, a Caring.com senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of WillMaker, software enabling consumers to...
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answered...

A person named as an agent in a power of attorney has the legal duty to act in "the best interests" of the principal -- that is, the person who See also:
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made the document. While that's a little fuzzy as a legal standard, the greater practical truth is that you know fraud when you see it: for example, money being siphoned from a bank account instead of being used to provide for the principal's health and safety.

An outsider trying to detect such fraud, however, is pinned in a difficult spot, since it may be tough to find out exactly what the agent is doing. In most states, the agent will not automatically be required to account or report to a court or to family members or other concerned individuals.

Your first step will be to get specific about your concerns about exactly what makes you suspect fraud is occurring. Then try to have an honest talk with the agent. Don't be accusatory; simply emphasize that you're interested in knowing what's going on. Also let him or her know you're available to help or that you support the idea of hiring someone else to lend some assistance -- perhaps a bookkeeper to do some basic accounting -- if that will relieve the burden of acting as agent. In a surprising number of cases, that show of care and concern clears up the matter.

If that step isn't possible or successful, you might ask a court to review the agent's acts to make sure they're on the up-and-up, and possibly to require an accounting so that the finances can be more directly monitored. To start this procedure, check the requirements of the nearest probate court. You should be able to find it by searching for probate court and the name of the city or county.

Defrauding an older person may be a form of financial abuse, which is strictly prohibited by the elder abuse laws in effect in every state. If you're fairly certain that some financial abuse is occurring and have good evidence to prove it, such as past-due bills that should have been paid for the principal, or receipts showing the agent used the principal's money for his or her own gain, consider consulting the office of adult protective services nearest to where the older person lives. You can find contact information by doing an Internet search of adult protective services along with the name of the state. Most of these agencies operate confidential hotlines to help callers define and direct their complaints, can provide referrals to local sources for more help, and sometimes undertake investigations on their own.

Finally -- again, if you're fairly certain that financial abuse has occurred and have some solid evidence to prove it -- consider hiring an elder law attorney for help in filing a claim against the agent. Before making any decision to hire, make sure the lawyer is experienced in seeking compensation from people who have abused and misused powers of attorney by intentionally stealing property or negligently handling someone else's property.

 

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Blanche Katz answered...

Here's a hint! When and if reporting to the local police departments, it is advised to have contacted the local Adult Protective Services first. APS wil do an investigation which the local police may not have the time to do right away. Many times the local police have more pressing crimes to contend with and not being funded to provide the proper personnel, the status of the elderly gets put "on the back burner". With the APS report, they will be able to begin to focus their limited resources towards gathering the necessary evidence and the chances for the conviction will be enhanced.

Blanche Katz, MSN, RN, GNP The ElderCare Educator

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

Please listen ! A lot of time when you give Power of Attorney to someone,they will turn into a monster.You think you know them ,but you don't.You will be made a big mistake. I know of a case where the Mother gave a her own daughter POA,and the Mother was just fine living alone and taking care of herself and the daughter put her in a nursing home,and the other daughter had to really fight a battle to get her out of the hursing home.The daughter who had the POA even stopped the other daughter from visting her Mom in the nursing home.PLEASE LISTEN TO ME,THEIR IS A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO HAVE HAD THE SAME TROUBLE FROM GIVING THE POA TO SOMEONE.PLEASE KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING WHEN YOU SIGN YOUR POWER OF ATTORNEY OVER TO ANYONE.IT SHOULD BE NAMED ( POWER OF MY LIFE ).THE PERSON YOU SIGN THE POA OVER TO RUNS YOUR LIFE ,AND DOES WHATEVER THEY WANT TOO, THEY DON'T EVEN HAVE TO ASK YOU BEFORE THEY DO WHATEVER THEY WANT TOO TO YOU ! .I PRAY THIS WILL OPEN YOUR EYES.DON'T EVER SIGN A DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY OVER TO ANYBODY PLEASE. IF THIS HASN'T CHANGED YOUR MIND IF YOU WAS GOING TO SIGN ONE OVER ,AT LEAST PLEASE LOOK IT UP ON YOUR COMPUTER ,OR GO TO A NURSING HOME AND SEE ALL OF THE PEOPLE (MOTHERS AND FATHERS ) THAT CRY DAY AND NIGHT THAT HAVE SIGNED THEIRS OVER TO SOMEONE THEY TRUSTED AND LOVED.

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

I had a similar problem with a sibling who had POA and then I discovered that she was committing fraud. I collected all the evidence and documentation and then went to my father's lawyer who helped me get her POA revoked. The Adult Protective Services may be able to help as well, but it would take longer, especially if the parent is not able to participate fully in the process. It is very sad when this situation occurs. Because of the POA revocation, my sibling has spread vicious rumors to extended family that I am keeping her from her father, yadda, yadda, yadda. To anyone who finds themselves in this situation I have but one word of advice: documentation. With clear documentation of the fraudulant activity, you can live with all the naysayers knowing that you did the right thing to care for your parent. Good luck!

 

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The Caregiver's Voice answered...

ANOTHER POINT OF VIEW

As a caregiver, initially with a POA, I made sure to keep track of every single detail. My sister, brother, and I didn't get along and when my husband and I moved my father from his Wisconsin home of 45 years into our California home, I didn't want to be charged with kidnapping.

Although, neither my sister or brother (who lived in our father's home) seemed to "notice" my father was gone.

Still, I didn't know what to expect and made sure to keep records of everything.

So, when the time came for them to accuse me of not being a good fiduciary (because I went after my brother for funds he was not entitled to), I was able to stand upright in court and defend my actions without any hesitation.

Sadly, his high-powered (high cost) attorney LOST and was disappointed that his client (my brother) didn't paint the full picture for him while my small neighborhood attorney felt vindicated--despite her initial fears of standing against a large law firm with oodles of staff.

BOTTOM LINE: KEEP records of EVERYTHING.

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

I agree with the above response. Transparency is of utmost importance. I, too, have kept records of every single penny spent and have every receipt for every purchase. I have also made it clear to my siblings that if they have any questions about what I have done, I would be happy to sit down with them to go over everything. Like the previous responder, when the time comes to go in front of a judge to recover monies taken prior to my taking over, I will be able to stand tall knowing I did everything possible to keep everything above board and did what I needed to do to be able to care for my father.

 

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0abuse answered...

My sister once borrowed $40,000 from my mom. I was in the bank when she was mouthing off and making sure everyone heard. "Oh, I'm paying back my mother the forty thousand dollars I borrowed." The phony only did that to make herself feel better. Later on down the road she would wind up embezzling all my mothers money, over $190,000 to divy out how she wanted. My sister's daughter who had nothing to do with my mother. Didn't visit in the hospital, didn't visit in the nursing home , didn't go to my moms funeral, got more money than me, the real daughter. My x-sister needs to dig a hole in her front yard and bury her crooked HEAD. I'm going to write a book and name names. There are alot of culprits in my story. I don't know how she sleeps at night. I have kept alot of records and she left alot of evidence.

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

YOU ARE A GOOD PERSON FOR TAKING UP FOR YOUR MOM.SOME PEOPLE THINK THEY SHOULD GET ALL OF PARENTS MONEY.BUT THAT IS FAR FROM THE TRUTH.KEEP YOUR HEAD UP AND SHOW YOUR SISTER THAT YOUR MOM HAD MORE THAT ONE CHILD.DON'T GIVE UP ! YOU ARE 100% RIGHT. MAY GOD BLESS YOU.

 

Gybo answered...

I feel for all of the people who have had issues. Be aware that a well devised plan of POA, trust etc are key tools to help someone when they are having challanges doing it them selves. It was not the plan that created monsters. It was the desicions of individuals. My grandparents would be in a world of trouble and their lives would be controlled by strangers who saw them as a case if I had no authority. Be wise and use the tools but do think about who, why and when they should be used. Have an attorney incorporate these desires into the plan.

Be careful on your approach of acaregiver. The task is far more stressfull, demanding and even costly than even the care giverexpects. Being challanged by someone who doesn't participate is likely to test the relationship you have with them. Many caregivers feel no one cares about the person(s) like they do. Sometimes they are given strict guidelines to not discuss money with anyone else. This was my case.

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

My father made my younger sister POA. None of the rest of the family knew about it. My eldest sister and her husband did most of the care giving for our father.

Although my father's will had designated that all of his 5 children were to share his property equally, after he died we soon found out that our youngest sister had tricked him into making everything payable directly to her upon death (POD). When he changed his CD's to PODs payable to her, he was in his late 80s, and could barely see and hear. She had had his mail directed to her home and kept all records hidden from the rest of the family. She stole the complete inheritance.

You might wonder why we do not hire a lawyer and sue the sister who got hundreds of thousands of dollars when we got nothing. She can now afford a very good attorney. Attorneys are expensive and the rest of us are barely getting by in this economy. I just lost my home to foreclosure.

All of us were very close to our father and the younger sister. We could not believe how she could do this to us. She was the one who did the least for him and avoided spending time with him personally or on the phone.

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

my thoughts of your fathers reasoning was he felt at peace with his "fatherhood" with all of u, but the youngest; therefore, he did what he had to, to show her he loves her too..

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

I am the attorney on my Aunt's EPOA and was also her caregiver but after so much harassment from family, I got her into a Alzheimer's Disease home. It has been 2 years since she moved there and the harassment continues. Family presume I am stealing her money. Now, a woman who was raised in another Aunt's foster home, decides she wants to know where my Aunt's money is going so she hired a lawyer to have me show her the books. I have kept track of everything I spent money on and also kept a journal from day 1 of her being declared incompetent. Court date is set for Aug. 1st. She is not a family member so I don't see why I'd have to show her anything.

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

While Adult Protective Services does great work, unfortunately they have limited resources. When I called them to try to get help with my situation (fraud, abuse of POA) I was told that they would only get involved if there was direct harm to the victim i.e. had my dad ended up homeless or admitted to the hospital as a result of physical abuse. Gives you a good idea how much financial and other abuse of our seniors is going on.

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

To everyone that has had assisted facilities, nursing home care and part time caregiving experience, I have some food for thought! Did u ever consider that some of these old people were stingy, power hungry, waited too long to make plans for their own aging care even when advised that they needed to, waited and then when 1 was too sick with alzheimers to know who he was decided that he would then let his only child that had two small children of her own be a poa and then wanted to put everything in her name to avoid inheritance tax, still not wanting to get or allow any care for his wife until he got dementia. 3 years later...... Still not eligible for medicaid , that daughter has had to move them in, lose her job that she had to feed her own children and barely makes ends meet, and her check pays for them to live in her house while their check gets used on their private nurse, their home to be maintained just like they still live in it and that only child has had her life threatened by the same ole man that wouldn't help his own wife , her mother, now she has to pay for them and although they have perfect insurance to cover their every little need their grandchildren don't . But yeah, You're right why shouldn't they get to keep all their assets for THEIR USE, they might as well they already ruined their daughter's chance of getting a full time job so she might leave something to her own children, that would be the job that carried a 401k for my retirement. Wow, they have state health insurance, retirement and their poor planning resulted in their needful private nurse gets paid from their daughters part time paycheck too. Remember folks, the caregivers that fall into poverty caring for old parents aren't the the ones that don't qualify for medicaid, it's the old parents that have to qualify for it. Oh and just in case most of you aren't aware of it, some states differ from others with caregiver funds, assistance, pay or allowable gifts. Shocked? Yes it's true, some of these old people are the wild ones and not the poa's and caregivers. Don't assume and advise people that they should never never never allow some one else to be a durable poa. For those caregivers out there that given up so much of your life, time and your future financial well being, absolutely u should get your parents assets. They want you to give up your whole life to give them care they should want you to have their assets instead of the state. To those of you that stereotype the "bad caregivers" and then"wild child" sweet dreams to u all that have not known full blown 24/7 parent - caregiving responsibilities for years and years where ur parents become the kids and if you already have children well good look squeezing a minute in for them. Why am u saying all this? Simple... It's my children that I have lost so much time away from, and because of my parents greediness they didn't want to make any long term care plans at all they thought they would never get old and actually said that. Well that's just stupid .... Including the medicaid office they would have to hand everything over to to get help. My parents actually advised me before they ever got alzheimers that they had me so they would have someone to care for them when they were old that they wouldn't dare be put in a nursing home. I'm honestly tired in every way possible of taking care of them. They shoved their own parents in a nursing home but they were too good for one.

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

Please be careful. I have cared for dad for 7 years, his money is gone, I had to build him a room and fix the house in order for the state to approve my home for him to live here, it cost me money but he has been here, still laughs, talks and walks after 7 years of Alz. Had he gone into a home that money would have disappeared. Now with his SS and mine we barely make enough money to live from day to day, but I give up my money to care for him in a 24/7 manner. And while it is said, gee you get his SS this is a joke, since half of mine and all my food stamps go to him. I would not put him in a home, he is only alive from the miracle of love (words the doctors have used not my words). When he goes I will most likely lose the house that I got when mom died, because I cannot afford the bills here. I have asked for nothing, my family does not really help at all, other than one brother who buys the gloves for my aides. I ask them all to stop giving me opinions of where he belongs because no one even comes to see him here much less in a nursing home. And no one has lived the last 7 years here with dad and me. Quite frankly I have told friends and relatives that if they want to help stop telling me to put him in a home, come to see him, and support me with your friendship.

As for money, please understand I am allowed with a 7% co pay, 6 hours of aides a day, that leaves me with 18 hours a day with dad in a wheel chair and needing to be fed, washed, turned, walked, etc. It costs me everything from diapers, to cleaners and disinfectants to two or more loads of laundry per day, to vitamins, over the counter meds, meds not covered by insurance, supplements like elderberry and other things I give him to keep him healthy, and monthly payments on everything from his burial trust to his many medical bills. His food alone is 20 or more dollars a day!

You might think an elderly person has loads of money, but in fact, if you put them in a home the money is taken and if you care for them at home the money goes away faster than you can imagine.

The animosity some of you have I understand completely but not all of us are evil greedy money thieves. I have given 7 years of my life to my dad and will do so until he dies here, that is my choice, it would not have been the choice of the rest of my family, who believe wholeheartedly he "belongs" in a home. It is hard enough for me, with only 3 hour increments of sleep and barely enough money to feed myself much less the disrespect my family so easily dishes out.

Care giving like I do, one on one for years on end is not easy, does not allow me to go out or away at all and is just plain emotionally draining, but I am going on adrenaline at this point now he is near the end,

AS an old g/f showed up and convinced him to move in with her when he was first diagnosed, and because her intent WAS To get his money, I understand the other side, but try and see how hard it is to do what I have done for 7 years now, be supportive, not critical, and be wise about choosing to go against someone like me who has given so much of my life to my dad with no other family to help.

There are two sides to every story, I happen to know both sides of this one.

And the right thing is not to put one in a nursing home if there is somewhere that person can go and be loved and well cared for. In therapy in homes, he sits alone in the hallway, he stops talking, he sits in urine, he begins to give up hope until I show up day after day and he smiles cause he knows he will be coming home soon. He may not remember much but he is certainly in tune with his feelings and mine. Sometimes, when a patient is violent, or there is no one who can take that person yes find a GOOD home, and believe me they are few and far between.

And if you have POA then spend all their money on them, believe me people with ALZ do not die rich, unless of course someone has hired a good lawyer to hide all the money somehow, the facts remain it costs a fortune to care for them at home, but is worth it to me, because dad was a good man and a good father to us all.

I hope this helps to put out some of the fires out there, realize how hard it is to care for someone at home and realize how expensive and lonely a job it is before you jump down someone's throat, please.

thank you for listening, a loving daughter.

 

 
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