The Importance of the Power of Attorney
By estate planning Attorney Rick Law, senior advocate and managing partner at the Estate Planning Center at Law Elder Law. Rick Law and his daughter Attorney Diana Law are part of the multi-generational law firm in Aurora, Illinois. An awful lot of people treat powers of attorney as if they are an unimportant throwaway document, but in a senior’s life (particularly one with dementia) it is not a throwaway document. A power of attorney can empower somebody to have an absolute license to steal – and this is why you should always seek out a qualified and experienced elder law and estate planning attorney. They can help you successfully navigate the waters of planning for the worst case scenario. Unfortunately, when a power of attorney for property is used inappropriately, it can be used on a regular basis to exploit individuals. People no longer use guns to rob banks; today they use a durable power of attorney. A durable power of attorney, when presented to an unsuspecting teller of a bank, will be used to withdraw massive sums of money.” Take Susie, for example… Susie never married or had children and ended up outliving all of her relatives. As various family members passed away, Susie inherited their estates. Susie’s last living relative, her brother, died when she was 66. After inheriting her brother’s estate, Susie had about $350,000 in investment accounts and owned her longtime home outright. Susie had no other sources of income and needed this money to last for the rest of her life. After her brother died, Susie had no family to look after her. When she reached her early 70s, Susie developed Alzheimer’s disease and was soon unable to protect her interests. She began to rely more and more on the family’s longtime, trusted lawyer to help her with finances. Susie was incapacitated, but the lawyer had her sign a very broad power of attorney agreement granting the lawyer virtually unfettered access to all of her moneys. Shortly after Susie signed the instrument, the lawyer started to plunder her funds. Over an eight-year period, the lawyer stole $176,000 from Susie’s accounts. He also squandered away large portions of Susie’s pension and social security. When the lawyer had worked his way through Susie’s savings and investment accounts, he sold her longtime home to his friend and client for far less than its market value. He then helped himself to much of the remaining sale proceeds. After selling Susie’s home, the lawyer moved her into a very small apartment on the other side of town, away from the neighborhood where she had lived her entire life. At this point, her old neighbors became suspicious and called the police, who referred the case to the Public Guardian. The Public Guardian subsequently became Susie’s guardian and sued the lawyer for recovery of Susie’s home and the moneys he stole. They also reported him to the lawyer registration and disciplinary commission. The case eventually settled, and Susie’s house and her savings were returned to her. She was able to move back into her longtime home, where she lived out the remaining years of her life. The lawyer was disbarred. If you’re ready to start getting your estate in order and secure your assets for the “worst-case” scenario, please give our office a call at 800-310-3100. Your first consultation is absolutely free. We’ll let you know what steps you need to take, right now, to protect yourself and your family. Call now. Sincerely, Rick L. Law, Attorney, Estate Planner for Retirees. Rick has been named the #1 Illinois elder law estate planning attorney for the past 8 years in a row by Leading Lawyer Magazine. He has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, AARP Magazine, TheStreet.com, and numerous newspapers and articles. Rick is the lead attorney for Law Elder Law, LLP, focusing in Estate Planning, Guardianship, and Nursing Home Solutions. His goal is to give retirees an informed edge when it comes to dealing with an uncertain future. Get flexible retirement strategies that work during good times and bad, plus information on how you can save your home and assets from being used to pay for long term care. Call 800-310-3100 for your free consultation now!