What do we do if we suspect fraud by the power of attorney?

6 answers | Last updated: Nov 10, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

What can we as a family member do if we suspect fraud by the power of attorney?

Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a Caring.com 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.

The agent named to act in the power of attorney document has the legal duty to act in your family member’s best interests. While that is a little muzzy as a legal standard, the greater practical truth is that you know fraud when you see it — money being siphoned from a bank account and not used to provide for the health and safety of your family member, for example.

You are pinned in a difficult spot, because it may be tough to find out exactly what the agent is doing: In most states, he or she will not automatically be required to account or report to a court or to other family members.

Your first step will be to get specific about your concerns — about what makes you suspect there is fraud occurring. Then try to have an honest talk with the agent. Don’t be accusatory; simply emphasize your interest in knowing what is going on — and let him or her know you are available to help or that you support the idea of hiring someone else to help if that seems best. In a surprising number of cases, that show of care and concern clears up the matter.

If that step is not 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.

And as a last step, if you are fairly certain there is some financial abuse going on, and have good evidence to prove it, consider contacting the office of adult protective services in the state in which your family member lives. Most have confidential hotlines to help callers define and direct their complaints, and can provide referrals to local sources for more help.

Community Answers

Suseli answered...

Contacting Adult Protective Services is a good idea in theory, but the truth is that they will not always be helpful. My sister had POA for our father; when I moved in with him to help, I eventually was made POA as well. I then discovered, almost accidentally, that my sister was committing multiple acts of fraud against my father. I called the local APS agency and was told that they would only get involved if there was proof that my father had been harmed i.e. if he had been made homeless because of what my sister had done. I finally contacted my dad's lawyer and showed him all of the documentation I had and he agreed that my sister's POA should be revoked. Took some time and effort, but we got it done. Needless to say, my sister is no longer speaking to me. Final word: DOCUMENT EVERYTHING! I have documentation of every action, have saved every receipt, have every bank statement so that when the time comes, there will be no question as to how I handled the finances and other difficult decisions.

Daughter sharon answered...

I agree. I contacted Adult Protective Services and they advised me that my Dad was now safe in a Nursing home. That was no comfort to me, and they dropped it. My sister had my Dad change his power of attorney when i confronted both of them about his overdrawn checking and account and her depleting his savings. He called me the next day and accused me of doing so....and ...to leave both of them alone. Well i did for awhile, but after awhile i missed my Dad. I was doing exactly what my sister wanted me to do...stay away.....Well i started visiting again and saw his dementia was progressing...he would call me at night not knowin where he was...she was his caregiver. I asked her to move in with him or vice versa, she said no to that from the start. My husband has COPD but we talked it over and said we could see about him moving in with us...Meantime, she put him in a Nursing Home, couple weeks ago, ive been there, but have no rights to any info, only can visit. I went to Social Security cause she was still getting his checks, they changed me to payee, she went two days later and changed back to her. O my gosh. I have to seek Attorney advice, I have all documents where when she opened savings acccount with in 2 years she emptied it into a private account. I have the checking account which my Dad and I were on, she took money out of that account and overdrew. Now because she has POA her signature is just signing my Dads name, without stating POA> And her son, also wrote checks off my Dads account...So ive been to 3 attorneys, all wanting outragious amounts of money up front....who has this...... so this may be another case that cant be pursued...However, i will try ...I feel she should be accountable for his Savings, He managed to live on a regular amount of his check and always had money. When she took over .....nothing he is broke...His cemetery lot isnt even paid for...which we were paying on before she took over. Sorry, Im venting. The laws help somewhat, but alot of people never have to pay for their actions because the concerned family members, have to use their own personal money to pursue a sad case....My Dad,,,

Daugther sharon answered...

Check and see If someone has a Medical Power of attorney if not.Git one have it ready to be notorized and witnesses.Then You will Have took the first steps to getting control of Your Dad. Depending on You State Laws Vary.I read in the texas probate code 489b, allows the principle to choose any one to act for them if the Attorney in-fact refuses to act are give and account. I am no lawer by any means but I incourage you to Learn some probate and penal codes in your State ThenYou will start saving money instead of giving it to a lawyer. Pick Your on Battles on Your on field. if You get a free conciltation email him back. He is hired for his Fiducirary responsibility and his Ethics to a client. Add this in your email Good Luck and God Bless You

A fellow caregiver answered...

Adult Protective Services is a joke. My sister had power of attorney over Dad who lived near her. He recently asked to come live with us because he wasn't happy where he was. He signed power of attorney over to us, and we discovered that instead of having $200,000 in his accounts, he had literally nothing. We reported her to adult protective services. They told us someone had already reported her in another county and therefore wouldn't investigate. The county that did investigate found that she would take his monthly checks and deposit them into her account. Hence, the money was co-mingled and they were unable to determine if there was any fraud involved, so there was no further investigation. Oh, and the county that investigated? Guess where her husband works.

A fellow caregiver answered...

I also had the same issue with Adult Protective services. An attorney recommended using their services first, since its free. Well this was in Missouri and the lady acted to me like she didn't really look interested. She took 3 months and was suppose to turn over all documents to the Prosecutor office. Well we had to call her and she finished the investigation and said there wasn't enough evidence to turn over to Prosecutor. No WAY, we had proof that my mom was abused by my brother having Power Of Attorney. He cleaned her out of her bank account. WHAT A WASTE OF TIME. So now we have to do what we should of done to start with, hire an attorney.