Sometimes people become more vulnerable as they age. Too often, seniors are taken advantage of, which is why adequate legal planning is crucial. Unfortunately, many families fail to address these preparations until it’s too late or the plan they thought they had in place goes awry. As a result, it is all too common for family caregivers to find themselves in sticky legal situations.
Below are some common questions from members of the Caregiver Forum about the legal troubles they have faced during their caregiving journeys.
Issues with Power of Attorney
Designating someone to act as your surrogate decision maker through a power of attorney (POA) document, especially for financial matters, is a crucial part of planning for the future. However, this useful tool can pose some issues among family members and with other entities, including banks.
- “How is my mother's power of attorney held accountable for financial decisions?”
- “The bank will not acknowledge my POA. What can I do?”
- “Can I get POA for a person with advanced dementia?”
- “I no longer want to be POA for my dad. Any advice?”
When an aging loved one hasn’t named a power of attorney before becoming incompetent or the person they chose has been accused of mishandling their affairs, lengthy and expensive guardianship proceedings are usually necessary to appoint a trustworthy person to take over this responsibility.
- “My father didn’t have POA and ended up in a coma. How can I go about getting medical information from the hospital, so I can help him?”
- “Secondary POA is acting before primary POA and stealing. How can we legally stop the financial and mental abuse without me draining my funds?
There are many kinds of abuse that seniors can fall victim to at the hands of strangers and even the people they are closest to. While those with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are considered the most vulnerable, cognitively sound individuals are also prone to being defrauded and scammed.
- “What do I do if I suspect an elder in my life has been a victim of financial fraud, but they won't share any information with me?”
- “What steps can I take if I believe my parents were taken advantage of by a remodeling company?”
- “Is there anything I can do about my widowed grandparent who is being sweetheart scammed?”
When Caregivers Need Legal Protection
Whether it is due to dementia or out of spite, elderly loved ones and even other family members sometimes accuse primary caregivers of abuse. Even if their claims are unfounded, the accused usually winds up in a heap of legal trouble.
- “How do I protect myself from Adult Protective Services (APS)?”
- “Can I be held legally responsible for damages to my mother's house or injuries that may happen to her in my absence?”
Estate Administration Issues
Administering a decedent’s estate involves collecting and managing their assets, paying debts and distributing remaining assets to beneficiaries. A will is a legal document that spells out one’s wishes for their estate after they’ve passed away, but many people either do not write a will or fail to update it regularly or make it accessible to family members who need it. While wills are supposed to simplify this process, they can be divisive legal documents for many families.
- “If my friend, for whom I am both financial and medical POA and trustee, dies without a will, what are the ramifications?”
- “My attorney says I can contest my dad’s will. Any thoughts?”
- “How do I find out if my sister left a will?”
If you are experiencing legal issues associated with caregiving, long-term care, elder abuse or estate planning, you are not alone. You can connect with other experienced caregivers to find answers and advice on the Caregiver Forum and use the Elder Law Attorney Directory to find legal counsel in your area.