A Power of
Attorney is a legal document which gives one adult the power to make financial
decisions on behalf of another.  Properly drafted and in the right hands, it can
be a and powerful tool to help care for an elderly loved one. 
However, a power of attorney is a "blank check" in that it grants broad authority without giving instructions as to how the authority is to be exercised.  Accordingly, this “power,” in the hands of the wrong person, is easily abused.  A recent article published
by MSNBC, Stealing
from Grandpa and Grandma,
highlights the warning signs of elder theft and
offers tips on what to do if you suspect a family member or friend is suffering
financial abuse.

The most
important tip they offer is to stay involved in the care of your loved one.  Do
not just assume that someone else is taking care of things properly.  Ask
questions, and make sure those with the “power” know that someone else is
watching, too.  Also, if you suspect financial abuse – whether by an attorney,
accountant, or family member – report the crime to your state’s Adult
Protective Services.  One bright spot is the new Elder Justice Act, passed this
year as part of the health care bill, which sets aside $800 million to expand
efforts to investigate elder financial theft.

If you suspect
financial abuse, but aren’t sure – or are reluctant to involve law enforcement,
one good strategy is to contact a qualified elder law attorney for advice in
your particular situation.  For more information about elder law issues, please visit
our website, and while you
are there, be sure to subscribe to our free e-newsletter for
more information each month.

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