“The best thing for Aunt Gertrude would be to have someone help her, to look out for her, you know. . .help her with her check book and what not.” This comment, or one like it, is often what you hear at a family gathering after dear Aunt Gertrude toddles past with her walker or leaning on her cane. With the Fourth of July just past, you may have been a part of a similar conversation.
So Aunt Gertrude appoints her dear niece Milly as her attorney-in-fact, often referred to as her power of attorney. Milly’s attorney drafts a standard power of attorney document at her office. The attorney spends a minimal amount of time with Milly and Aunt Gertrude, in fact this is the first time she ever even met Aunt Gertrude, though she has known Milly for years. Aunt Gertrude doesn’t ask any questions of Milly’s attorney. She isn’t quite sure what a “power of attorney” is, but she feels very important sitting in this nice office with a female attorney. She feels like Milly must know all about such things.
On the way home, Aunt Gertrude starts to look over this very important paper she has signed. It must be important, because the attorney gave one to Milly, too. She’s not exactly sure what “Expressly limiting the duration of a power” means, or what “renouncing a fiduciary position” could have to do with her. But Milly is taking care of her.
Now — hit the Fast Forward button on this story. Sometime, perhaps six months or six years into the future. . .
“I would like to make a withdrawal please,” Milly says to the office administrator at Aunt Gertrude’s Bank. Milly slides the withdraw slip to the teller along with a copy of her power of attorney. The teller politely takes the papers from her. After making sure that everything is in order with her supervisor, the teller returns and asks
“How would you like this, in a cashier’s check?”
“No,” responds Milly. “Please make it cash. Large bills.”
After taking a moment to gather the funds, the teller counts out the withdrawal, one large bill at a time. “There you go, ten thousand dollars.”
Milly pleasantly smiles and says, just before departing “Please don’t mention this to anyone from my family. I know some of them do their banking here.”
“Don’t worry. We’re not allowed to discuss other people’s accounts with anyone unless they are on the account,” to which Milly responds “good.”
This scenario plays out every single day, and that is no exaggeration. Aunt Gertrude doesn’t have a clue that Milly is taking her money, and no one in the bank has the power to stop her. She has the power of attorney document which was prepared by an attorney, signed by Aunt Gertrude, witnessed and properly notarized.
We call it Senior Citizen abuse without a scratch. We are trying to put as much information out as possible to help our caregivers and our senior citizens. Watch our Twitter account at “MarkMateya” for new resources to help prevent senior citizen financial abuse. And thank you for your stories. We’ll begin sharing some of your stories, of course with “Aunt Gertrude and her niece Milly” as our subjects.