Common Abuse of Powers of Attorney
You are NOT giving up the right to act for yourself!
Recently, neighbors called the police to an elderly gentleman’s home because of a disturbance. Several officers showed up to find the man and his daughter having a loud argument. The elderly man’s daughter had taken his house and car keys as well as his wallet containing his driver’s license, and other items. She decided that he shouldn’t drive anymore and should not even leave the house.
The police officers asked the daughter why she had taken his possessions. In response, the daughter held up her father’s power of attorney in which he named her as his agent. The document gave her complete power to do anything under the law that he could do himself. The elderly man said he didn’t care, that he wanted his possessions back.
The police were uncertain what to do, so they called their supervisor. After speaking to their supervisor, the officers told the elderly man “There’s nothing we can do, you need to see a lawyer. Under the law, your daughter has the right to keep your wallet and other possessions because she is your power of attorney.”
WRONG! The police were very much mistaken.
In another case, an elderly man who was transferring from a nursing home to an assisted living facility in another city, told the nursing home officials that they were not to give his wife (soon to be ex-wife) any information about his movements. However, because he had granted a power of attorney to his wife, the nursing home administrator gave his wife all the information she asked for.
If you give someone your power of attorney, that is, name them as your agent to act on your behalf, you are not giving up the right to act for yourself. Furthermore, you can cancel that power of attorney any time you want to. What’s more, the agent is required by law not to take any actions that he knows you would not want taken.
So, in both cases, the holder of the power of attorney abused it by taking actions that the grantor of the power of attorney did not agree with. The police and the nursing home administrator had absolutely no right to treat the respective gentlemen as if they were no longer the masters of their own fate.
This is a very common misconception about powers of attorney–the idea that somehow the agent is now in charge of the principal (the person who grants the power of attorney). That is just not so, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!
If you have questions or concerns regarding a new or existing power of attorney, please don’t hesitate to call our office.
Gilsoul & Associates Law Firm.
We’re here to help!