Published on:

Beware the Fill-in-the-Blank Power of Attorney Form, Please

By

If you’ve read the recent (last week, last year, last decade, last century) stories about relatives, caregivers, and others who are charged with theft, elder abuse, and other crimes against the fragile or elderly people they are allegedly caring for …,

If you ever wondered why public law librarians and lawyers go pale when people use Fill-in-the-Blank forms for things like Powers of Attorney and Advance Directives, to name only a couple …,
Here’s an excellent article from the Oregonian’s Brent Hunsberger’s It’s Only Money column (Sunday, 9/7/09, Business section, p. D-1) that will explain why.

It also has some valuable tips on how to protect yourself and loved ones. (Oregonlive version: Protect yourself now against elder financial ripoffs, Posted by Brent Hunsberger, The Oregonian September 05, 2009.)

Action Now Can Protect You from Elder Abuse

Excerpts:

The 83-year-old recovered from severe medical complications to find a cousin and niece had sold off her home and raided her bank accounts, even prepaying her funeral.

Elder safeguards

It might seem like an extreme case. But to estate planning attorneys and professional fiduciaries, it’s all too familiar.

“I could write a book,” said Mary Hansen, president of the Guardian/Conservator Association of Oregon and a longtime court-appointed manager of vulnerable people’s finances.

Best to plan ahead and avoid a crisis that ends up as a newspaper headline.

Speak with an elder-law attorney. This advice comes not from a lawyer but Mark Sanford, interim public guardian/conservator of Multnomah County. His office manages some 150 cases in which a publicly financed conservator was needed to manage a vulnerable elder’s financial affairs.

Discussing whom to appoint as power of attorney, trustee or conservator takes some careful considerations of family dynamics and individual trustworthiness, as well as laws and pitfalls pitfalls….” (link to full article)

The article’s sidebar links to these resources (and includes live links):

· To help protect elder’s financial security: Report abuse: in Oregon, call 800-232-3020
· For legal advice: Contact Oregon State Bar’s lawyer referral service at 800-452-7636
· Or you can find a partial list of elder lawyers at www.osbar.org/sections/elder/ElderLaw.html
· For financial guidance: Find a certified conservator or professional fiduciary at the Guardian/Conservator Association of Oregon, www.gcaoregon.org, or the national Center for Guardian Certification: www.guardianshipcert.org
· For additional help: Call the Multnomah County Public Guardian/Conservatorship 503-988-4567 (
link to full article)

The article doesn’t address the problem of the financial institutions and other businesses that accept without question some power of attorney forms that should raise eyebrows if scrutinized, but you can be sure the prosecutors and plaintiffs attorneys will do that investigation in an effort to recover stolen money.

But your best best is prevention, which starts at home.

Previous OLR post on Power of Attorney forms.