Power of Attorney: Not A License To Steal

Recently, a Pennsylvania woman was thrown in jail for over a year for stealing in excess of $100,000 from her 79 year old aunt. She had a power of attorney (POA) over her aunt’s financial affairs. POA’s are routinely used as part of estate and elder law planning. One type of POA gives the other person the authority to act for you, but only upon the happening of a certain event, such as incapacity. Another popular type of POA, the other person can immediately take action, regardless of incapacity. These POA’s can be as narrow or as broad as the person granting the POA desires.
The above-story gives two important warnings. It gives a warning to…

…those who act under the authority of a POA. Under the law, a person who has a POA cannot use the POA to or for their own interests – to do so could be construed as stealing and a violation of their duties toward the other. Instead, a person must use the POA for the benefit of the one who gave them that power in the first place.
The second warning from this story is that the person who gives a POA to someone else must be sure that they are giving this authority to a person they absolutely trust. One must also be careful about the type of POA they give to another in terms of when it will begin and what it allows (and does not allow) the other person to do. People often try to do POA’s on their own. This is a poor idea. The benefits of speaking to an attorney far outweigh the risks of fines and/or jail time if you do something wrong. Our Attorneys draft Pennsylvania Power of Attorney documents on a regular basis, please contact us for help with yours.