State Revises Power of Attorney Legislation to Avoid Exploitation and Abuse

One state has proposed legal reforms to discourage power-of-attorney abuses that have cheated the elderly, the disabled and their heirs. The report, which is the result of an 18-month study ordered by the state House, includes draft legislation.. The study was prompted by articles in the Post-Gazette which revealed gaps in the law that had allowed attorneys and family members to divert savings and pension benefits to their advantage.

Among the changes being proposed is a provision that would forbid an agent -- the person on whom a power of attorney has been conferred -- from making changes in an estate plan, including pensions and insurance, without such permission expressly granted in the document or unless they obtain the approval of an Orphans Court judge.

Questions about power of attorney abuse prompted a hard look by the office of the District Attorney. After an initial report that raised questions about $40,000 in political donations from the trust fund of an elderly widow, the attorney general brought criminal charges against her lawyer, who faces trial later this year.

Under proposed changes, courts would also have broader powers to order investigations or to intervene in the handling of a power of attorney upon allegations of financial abuse or mismanagement. Current law requires a third party to demand an account of money handling. The changes would open the door to a court ordering governmental agencies, including prosecutors, to step in early in the process. For more, read the story.

Robert W. Carter,  Jr. is a Virginia attorney whose law practice is dedicated to protecting the rights of the victims of nursing home and assisted living neglect and abuse in Richmond, Roanoke, Norfolk, Lynchburg, Danville, Charlottesville, and across Virginia.

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