At its most basic, a power of attorney is a legal document that gives someone else the legal authority to act on your behalf. A POA is a fairly commonly used legal tool and when used correctly, a very effective legal tool. If you have an elderly loved one, be sure to educate yourself and your loved one about the proper use of a POA as well as the risks associated with giving someone POA. Sadly, elderly Americans are abused and taken advantage of in record numbers in the United States and a POA is often a “weapon” of choice for those who wish to commit fraud, or outright theft, from an elderly victim.
People tend to think of abuse and neglect of the elderly as limited to physical or mental abuse. In fact, financial abuse is one of the most common forms of abuse. If you have an elderly loved one who requires care from someone outside the family, the risk of abuse is always present. Unfortunately, abuse can even occur within the family. Gaining control over an elderly victim’s finances can be done rather easily with the POA.
A POA can be very specific or can be very broad. A specific POA, for instance, may give someone the authority to complete the sale of a car on your behalf. A broad POA, however, basically opens up the flood gates to all of your assets and accounts. If someone convinces your elderly loved one to sign a broad POA, the perpetrator could clean out his or her accounts in record time. A broad POA is rarely needed, especially by someone who is not family. Be sure you talk to your loved one about POAs and encourage him or her to notify you immediately if anyone broaches the subject.