Power of Attorney
Powers of attorney (POAs) are private contracts executed and implemented under state
law. POAs serve to assist people in conducting personal and financial affairs. POAs also preserve their autonomy to choose one or more trusted persons to conduct
their affairs in the event they no longer can. Durable powers of attorney,
which remain in effect after the principal’s incapacity, can be an economical
estate-planning tool used to avoid the potentially contentious and costly
process of guardianship or conservatorship.
Creating a Power of Attorney
Creating a POA generally requires the principal’s signature and notarization; except for
transactions involving real estate, there is no registration requirement.
Unless the POA expressly requires the agent to provide an accounting to the
principal or to a third party, there is no routine oversight of the agent’s performance.
Once the POA is in effect, the agent’s ability to conduct transactions involving the
principal’s property receives little or no oversight. Unless the principal or
an observant family member, friend, or caregiver acts on suspicions involving
unusual transactions, or the disappearance of the principal’s property, the
principal’s estate can be depleted by an unscrupulous agent, leaving the principal
Risks of Abuse
POAs have become popular because of low cost, ease of execution, the privacy it
affords a principal, and scope of authority it affords an agent to conduct the
affairs of the principal. These qualities which render POAs so attractive also
make them ripe for abuse. There is growing concern about the ease with which
agents can secure a POA through undue influence or duress, or obtain a POA despite
the principal’s incapacity
Preventive measures include requirements that the principal
expressly and specifically grant authority to the agent to conduct certain
transactions on behalf of the principal, such as creating or changing rights of
survivorship, creating or changing a beneficiary designation, making a gift,
and other actions affecting the principal’s property rights.
Other situations which raise concerns about potential financial exploitation include
actions to change how property is titled, the designation of the payee for
various benefits (e.g., Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, disability, pension), the designation of survivor benefits, or the principal’s place of residence or care.
If you feel someone is being abused, contact the Missouri elder abuse hotline. http://health.mo.gov/safety/abuse/