06 Jan How Boomers Can Prevent Power of Attorney Abuse
The power of attorney has become a growing problem with the nation’s aging population, putting baby boomers on both sides of a despicable crime. For example, New York philanthropist Brooke Astor’s estate was milked to the tune of almost $200 million by her own son, Anthony Marshall. Although criminal charges were filed by the Manhattan District Attorney, the money has been squandered on Marshall’s greedy ego and own lavish lifestyle.
So, what can you as a Baby Boomer do to avoid power of attorney abuse? There are several practical suggestions to help boomers not become statistics in the burgeoning abuse among powers of attorney. First and foremost, start planning early. The power of attorney must be established while the estate holder is of sound mind. Once you are mentally incapacitated, the state may name a guarantor for your estate who is likely unaware of your wishes and preferences relating to your finances.
Selection of a power of attorney can seem overwhelming. Treat the decision as a business decision, as it is one of the most important steps you will take regarding your finances and your future. Find a private attorney who can assign power of attorney to whomever you select, and hold a family meeting with all members who are or may be affected by any financial decisions you make.
Discussing the situation in an open forum with family can help prevent anyone from feeling left out or from being intentionally overpowered by another family member. Take suggestions from family members regarding the appropriate person to serve as your power of attorney. Who among the possibilities has a strong personal financial background? Is there someone with professional experience with financial matters? Will your selection be willing to ask for help or advice when needed?
Once your family meeting has taken place, continue the search by conducting interviews of your own. The interviews need not be formal, but they do need to be thorough. Find out through your visits the intentions of those interested in the role of power of attorney. What do they understand as their responsibility as power of attorney?
To avoid power of attorney abuse, you should be especially leery of anyone who is overzealous to take on the responsibility, particularly since the position is most often an unpaid one. You may even choose to appoint two people who must act in conjunction with one another when making decisions on your behalf; however, this is often impractical for many families who are separated both geographically and philosophically.
Finally, have a backup. Your first choice may not outlast you, may become physically or mentally incapacitated themselves, or simply may decide to relinquish the responsibility altogether.
Everyone has the right to age gracefully, and being the victim of power of attorney abuse is hardly the way to get there. What is your experience with powers of attorney? Do you know someone who has been victimized, either directly or indirectly, by a power of attorney? Tell us about it at BooomerYearbook.com.
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