National Report Says States Have Ability to Curb Power of Attorney (POA) Abuse

Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq., a Power of Attorney Lawyer

The misuse of powers of attorney to exploit the elderly appears to be on the rise, but a new AARP report says that states can improve protections for older people by adopting a model law that addresses this type of abuse.

For most people, the power of attorney is the most important estate planning instrument — even more useful than a will. A power of attorney (POA) allows an individual to name a trusted person — their agent — to make financial decisions for them if they ever become incapacitated.

But while a POA avoids the costly and time-consuming process of having a court appoint a guardian or conservator, it also confers a great deal of authority on the agent. This is why advocates for the elderly often call the POA a “license to steal.” Increasingly, it seems, dishonest agents have been taking advantage of this license. AARP says that adult protective services and criminal justice professionals are reporting “an explosion” of financial exploitation cases of this type against the elderly.

Powers of attorney are regulated by state law and most states lack adequate safeguards, AARP contends; not New Jersey however. “New Jersey has strong fiduciary laws that are readily enforceable by the courts” says Fredrick P. Niemann, an elder law attorney in Freehold, Monmouth County, New Jersey.  New Jersey has laws on Powers of Attorney to offer help to protect people who execute POAs and discourage POA abuse. “There are stringent requirements for agents to exercise certain powers, as well as provisions making malfeasant agents liable for damages, attorney’s fees and costs”, says Niemann.

The AARP report, “Power of Attorney Abuse: What States Can Do About It,” compiled by the American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging under contract to AARP.

For further information and advice on Powers of Attorney, do not hesitate to contact Fredrick P. Niemann at 732-863-9900 Ext. 101 or 105, or fniemann@hnlawfirm.com/.

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