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Power of Attorney Abuse: What It Is and How to Identify It

July 17, 2023

Individuals who hold power of attorney (known as “attorneys in fact”) typically have extensive authority to make decisions on behalf of their principals, including most medical and financial decisions. But with great power comes great responsibility, and, unfortunately, attorneys in fact do not always act in their principals’ best interests. If you suspect that power of attorney abuse is occurring, please consider contacting our Springfield power of attorney counsel. 

What Is Power of Attorney Abuse? 

An attorney in fact is legally required to act in a fiduciary capacity on the principal’s behalf, which generally means that the attorney in fact must act in good faith and in the principal’s best interest. Power of attorney abuse occurs where an attorney in fact breaches that fiduciary duty in a way that causes harm to the principal. This could occur in a variety of ways, including: 

  • Self-dealing: Occurs where an attorney in fact uses their position as such to enrich themselves, such as by taking personal loans from the principal or using the principal’s assets to invest in companies the attorney in fact owns
  • Embezzlement: Occurs where an attorney in fact steals assets from the principal
  • Undue influence: Occurs where an attorney in fact uses their position of power and confidence to induce the principal to act contrary to the principal’s will, such as by changing their estate planning documents to benefit the attorney in fact
  • Fraud and forgery: Occur where the attorney in fact uses the principal’s personal identifying information to open bank accounts or lines of credit in the principal’s name
  • Medical abuse: Occurs where the attorney in fact makes healthcare decisions on behalf of the principal that are contrary to the principal’s wishes

When power of attorney abuse occurs to an elderly person, it may be considered a form of elder abuse.

Red Flags That Power of Attorney Abuse May Be Occurring 

Given the vast powers attorneys in fact typically exercise, it can often be difficult for third parties to detect when power of attorney abuse is occurring. However, some common red flags include: 

  • Unpaid bills
  • Unexplained fluctuations in the value of the principal’s financial accounts
  • A sudden drop in the principal’s credit score
  • Demands by the attorney in fact that the principal sign unfamiliar documents
  • Missing valuables from the principal’s possession 
  • “Hovering” by the attorney in fact during meetings between the principal and their lawyers or financial advisors 
  • Sudden and unexplained changes to the principal’s will or trust documents  

If you notice any of these signs, you should act quickly to prevent further harm to the principal’s health or finances. 

Get Help From Our Springfield Power of Attorney Counsel 

Power of attorney abuse can have serious long-term consequences for its victims. If you suspect that someone you care about is suffering power of attorney abuse, you may need to speak to an attorney to put a stop to it. To get started, please contact the Springfield power of attorney counsel at LifeGen Law Group by calling 417-823-9898 or using our online contact form.