Should we report my mother's attorney to the bar association?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 30, 2016
Caringforaunt asked...

My elderly aunt signed over power of attorney to her attorney because her family was taking advantage of her generosity. Her attorney takes care of her bills, but has cut off her access to her money and is allowing her only $200 per month for food. She is competent and has repeatedly requested more money per month. Her family has also requested an increase in her monthly allowance, but the attorney will not return calls or respond to email. Should the attorney be reported to the Bar Association and what should the family do at this point?

Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

That is mysterious. Despite the word "attorney" in power of attorney it is out of the ordinary for a person to name his or her legal attorney to act as agent in a power of attorney. An agent is empowered to act in the person's best interests"”and unless your aunt and her attorney were extraordinarily close, it would seem unlikely that he is the best person for the job.

Call the court that enforces powers of attorney"”the superior court, in most places"”and ask what local procedures are necessary to end the agent's appointment. Since your aunt is mentally competent, that should be fairly easy to do. If she has another person in mind to act as her agent an still wants to have a power of attorney in place, it would be a good idea to be sure that person is ready and willing to take over the duties.

If your aunt is most concerned about other people depleting her bank account, there may be other arrangements that could meet her needs, such as setting up a joint bank account with one other trusted individual. Or setting up a trust that regularly pays her living expenses. While hiring another attorney at this point might leave a wary taste in your aunt's mouth"”and understandably so"”she may be able to get some specific and affordable legal advice from an experienced elder care attorney referred by the local Area on Agency.

A good attorney may also be able to get through to the attorney who is currently being unresponsive; they tend to answer the phone when it's one of their own calling. And if the unresponsive one is really doing all you say, he or she may even be guilty of elder abuse or financial fraud.

Your aunt should get as much specific information as possible about her accounts and expenses before contacting anyone else. That information would be needed should she decide to file a complaint with the local bar association. Allegedly, bar associations are required to at least do a brief investigation of complaints filed with them. Beware, however, that most are notoriously slow and hesitant to take action. Still, such a complaint may be what spurs the attorney to right his or her wrongs"”and may even help prevent another person from being harmed by such wrongful actions.