Best Ways to Approach Power of Attorney Abuse
Suppose a person is very busy and wants a financial planner to have the authority to make financial decisions for them. Or suppose a person is very sick, with their mental awareness declining, and they want a trusted family member or friend to have authority to make decisions when they cannot. Power of attorney can help those people.
What Is Power of Attorney?
Power of attorney a contract in which one person gives another person the authority to make legal decisions and other binding actions on their behalf. The person giving the authority is called the Principal. The person receiving the authority is called the Agent. The Agent owes a fiduciary duty to the Principal. This responsibility is the Agent’s duty to only act in the Principal’s best interests.
Because the Principal is placing the utmost trust in the Agent, it can be devastating when the Agent abuses that authority, especially when the Agent is a trusted friend or family member. If someone is abusing their power of attorney for you or someone you care about, there are steps you can take to stop it.
How Is Power of Attorney Abused?
Simply put, power of attorney abuse occurs when the Agent misuses the authority they were given by the Principal. The Agent is legally required to make decisions that fall within the Principal’s best interests. When the Agent acts to serve anyone other than the Principal, power of attorney abuse may have occurred. A common situation is when the Agent tries to personally and financially gain at the Principal’s expense. Power of attorney abuse can also include fraud, forgery, or outright theft.
Many people who give power of attorney are either elderly, severely ill, or mentally struggling. Unfortunately, power of attorney abuse most often hurts these vulnerable classes of people.
What Can I Do About Power of Attorney Abuse?
The first thing you should do is contact an experienced power of attorney abuse lawyer for help. The attorney can help you.
Next, gather and preserve as many relevant documents as you can. Power of attorney abuse must be proven before action can be taken. Financial records showing that the Agent is taking advantage of the Principal are often the best proof.
You can file a lawsuit against the Agent for power of attorney abuse. Sometimes court action is necessary to stop the abuse and seek damages from the bad actor for their abuse of the power of attorney. Once the Agent has been confronted, these matters might be resolved through mediation or settlement before a court must intervene.
What Will Happen to the Agent?
The Agent is often a friend or family member. People who give power of attorney commonly give their children or siblings that authority. If you suspect someone you care about is abusing their power of attorney, the potential abuser may also be your relative or another person you care about. The Agent may be your child, brother, sister, aunt, or uncle. These can be highly emotional and sensitive situations.
First, remember that the Agent volunteered to have complete trust placed upon them. The primary goal should be to protect the Principal, obtain a new trusted Agent, and remedy the harm the untrustworthy Agent caused.
Second, power of attorney abuse is generally a civil matter, not a criminal one. Parties handle issues in a civil court, with the goal being to protect the Principal and recover damages. People can often handle power of attorney abuse issues without filing criminal charges.
Third, it is unlikely that resolving power of attorney abuse will require a public trial. Most cases of this type are settled, either through informal negotiations or a structured mediation. We understand a victim’s concern about friends or family members testifying at a trial. Our experienced power of attorney lawyers at Peck Ritchey, LLC work hard to discreetly resolve matters before trial.
Contact Our Attorneys and Report Power of Attorney Abuse
If you or someone you care about is the victim of suspected power of attorney abuse and the Principal is elderly, you can report it to the Illinois Department of Aging. Click here for the reporting page with the hot-line phone number. The Illinois Department of Aging keeps reports confidential.
Further, you should also seek help from legal counsel. The experienced Chicago power of attorney abuse lawyers of Peck Ritchey, LLC offer a free consultation and can answer your questions. For your free consultation, call us anytime at (855) 328-5787.
This can be a heart-breaking and emotional situation for you. We understand how to guide you through this difficult time. Let us help.