How to protect yourself from Power of Attorney Abuse

We have all seen horror stories in the media where the person holding the Power of Attorney (POA) for Property: sells your house or cottage—and without authorization other than a Power of Attorney; cashes in your investment portfolio; diverts your pension cheques; steals from your cash accounts; or even buys a new car with your money.

POAs are important legal documents that give someone else broad powers to make key decisions for you. On occasion, those entrusted with POA powers abuse them; you may need to take legal action to protect yourself or your loved ones.

There are three kinds of Powers of Attorney:

A General Power of Attorney for Property: applies as long as you are mentally capable of managing your affairs. 

A Continuing Power of Attorney for Property: applies when you are mentally capable and after you become incapacitated. This includes looking after your real estate, finances, cars, bank accounts, investment portfolios, and anything else you own. 

Power of Attorney for Personal Care: if you become mentally incapacitated, a POA for Personal Care designates who will decide critical issues such as health care and medical treatment, diet, housing, clothing, hygiene, and safety.

The Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General has an excellent brochure about issues you should think about for your POA for Personal Care.

Tips to Prevent Power of Attorney abuse
1. A competent adult—family member, friend, or trusted advisor—can hold your Powers of Attorney. Choosing different people for all your POAs not only distributes the workload to manage your affairs, it also prevents a concentration of power in one person.

2. For your General Power of Attorney for Property, you can specify an expiration date.

3. It is wise to act at the first sign of missing money or other “strange doings.” It may be a case of inadvertent neglect of looking after your affairs rather than malicious intent.

You may find it necessary to launch a legal action such as a Power of Attorney Dispute. An experienced Will lawyer at Donnell Law Group with over 75 years combined experience servicing Keswick, Georgina and the entire Municipality of York can help you.

4. You can also revoke your POA, but only if your mental faculties are sound.

If you, or your loved ones feel you may be abused by someone who has Power of Attorney, please call one of our experienced Will lawyers servicing New Market, Richmond Hill, Aurora and Vaughn Visit Donnell Law’s webpage for more information on a Capacity Assessment to Prevent Exploitation. Donnell Law Group is here to help you.

Early warning signs of potential Power of Attorney abuse

Pay careful attention to the behaviour of the person to whom you have entrusted POA powers. If you notice any of the following behaviours, it may be wise to consider re-assigning your Powers of Attorney. 

• Abuse alcohol, or prescription or recreational drugs
• Have a gambling problem
• Has lost a good job, has precarious employment, or is unable to pay bills
• Is seriously in debt
• Is struggling with mental health
• Have a spouse, or common-law partner, with any of the above behaviours

Donnell Law Group notes the province of Ontario is looking to improve laws to improve POA’s accountability as seen here in this Toronto Star Article When people are struggling with their own problems and it becomes necessary for them to act with Powers of Attorney for you, it would likely be an undue burden and not in your best interest. Please connect with Donnell Law Group today.

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