You recall that in our vignettes, Aunt Gertrude has appointed her niece Milly as her attorney-in-fact through the Power Of Attorney document. With just that as a background, think of your own family and acquaintances — Have any of you reading this ever been guilty of making any of these statements:

  • – “Does Aunt Gertrude understand that she is the one in charge, not her ‘power of attorney’ [Editor’s note: the correct terminology is ‘her attorney in fact’] Milly?
  • – “Why does Aunt Gertrude allow Milly to take advantage of her like that?”

Or how about these statements?

  • – “I am going to explain to Aunt Gertrude that she doesn’t have to allow Milly to use her car all of the time, just when they go to the store or hairdressers together.”
  • – “Its a shame the way Milly is taking advantage of poor Aunt Gertrude. Someone should do something about that.”

It is estimated that nearly three billion (with a “b”) dollars are being lost to financial elder abuse each year, and that number continues to grow.# We can not justify sitting by and shaking our head, saying “isn’t it a shame.” There is a time to act.

If you see your Aunt Gertrude’s niece Milly acting like she is in charge, don’t you dare say “What a shame” and walk away. It is up to you to speak to Milly and say the same thing: “You are not in charge, Aunt Gertrude is in charge.” And if you happen to be in Aunt Gertrude’s family, you certainly can ask Milly what she is doing with the money and ask her to account for it properly.

If Milly is misusing Aunt Gertrude’s assets, like her car or house, you speak up to Milly and ask her plainly “What are you doing, and how does this help your Aunt Gertrude?” An attorney in fact agrees, in writing, to only take actions which are for the benefit of the principal — in our case Aunt Gertrude.

You may be appalled that Milly is taking advantage of Aunt Gertrude. After today, you are part of the solution. You say something to Milly. If not, you have become part of the problem. . .