Powers of attorney are common estate planning tools. Many people in Texas use these documents to make sure that their medical and financial wishes are respected even if they are unable to make decisions on their own. Sadly, there is a significant amount of abuse within this area of elder law.
Abuse of the elderly often brings to mind physical abuse or neglect, but this is not the only way in which another person might harm an elderly individual. Financial abuse constitutes a significant threat to elderly individuals' ability to support themselves during their later years. Many of these individuals have spent their whole lives saving toward retirement and end-of-life care, but a MetLife survey found out that there is a $2.9 billion financial abuse problem among the elderly.
Much of this abuse occurs through misuse of power of attorney privileges. Many people often feel obligated to make their eldest child or closest living relative the person named in their financial power of attorney, but this is often an extremely misguided approach. Proximity to a person does not mean that the individual is trustworthy or capable of managing complex financial needs, such as long-term medical needs. Selecting the wrong person can also leave a person with virtually nothing. Financial abuse by emptying out an elderly person's financial accounts is a serious and real problem.
Texas residents should give considerable thought into who they name in their powers of attorney. These individuals have significant legal rights to make financial and/or medical decisions. Those who are unsure of their decision or otherwise considering these matters may benefit from speaking with an attorney who is experienced in elder law.