Powers of Attorney Pose Risks and Complications for Area Families

Many local seniors visit a New York elder law lawyer to sign a power of attorney form. These documents represent a popular way for many aging residents to have help with the management of their finances. A power of attorney usually involves a senior appointing a loved one as an agent who has the ability to make business and financial decisions on their behalf.

For many families, this remains an important part of their New York elder law planning. However, it is important that these legal arrangements not be entered into lightly, because they come with risks and complications.

Last week the Wall Street Journal discussed those potential power of attorney dangers, reminding readers to consult with elder law professionals to avoid future problems. Perhaps the biggest risk is the potential for fraud. Experts report that cases of elder financial exploitation and abuse have been on the rise for several years. One tracking method developed by the Metlife Mature Market Institute suggests that a staggering $2.6 billion is taken unlawfully from vulnerable seniors each year.

Federal and state lawmakers have recently attempted to curb this problem. For example, here in New York adults are now allowed to name third-party monitors with these documents. Those monitors receive regular reports from an agent which includes a check of accounting records to ensure that no unusual activity is found.

In addition, to prevent abuse some banks are taking tough stances and refusing to honor powers of attorney that do not meet certain criteria, such as those created out of state. While it is encouraging that financial institutions understand the risks of fraud, these practices often present challenges to well-meaning loved ones who are honestly working to help their senior.

As with all decisions related to the care and protection of senior assets, it is vital that you contact a New York elder law attorney for assistance. There is no substitute for experienced advice and professional help with these very important estate planning issues. This is true now more than ever considering both the risk of abuse as well as the difficulty of ensuring that the power of attorney document will be honored.

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