A recent story out of Ohio shows the dangers that many people, including veterans, face when they decide to hand over power of attorney to those who might abuse it. John Potter, a 91-year-old Ohio man, gave general power of attorney to his daughter after Mr. Potter’s wife died in 2004. Sometime between 2004 and 2010, his daughter transferred the deed of his home to herself. After learning about the transfer, Mr. Potter decided to fire his daughter as his agent and name his granddaughter as his new agent instead.
Anyone named as an agent under a power of attorney has a fiduciary duty to not take advantage of that position. This is a legal duty recognized under all states, and a violation of such a duty can be a criminal offense.
After transferring power of attorney to his granddaughter, Mr. Potter sued his daughter for her apparent breach of the duty. However, he waited too long to do so, because the statute of limitations governing breach of fiduciary duty had lapsed. To make matters worse, his daughter served him with an eviction notice earlier this year.
But there is a positive angle to the story as well. Since news broke of Mr. Potter’s situation, over 5,000 people have made donations to help him stay in his home. The donations have so far totaled $138,000, allowing him to purchase his home back from the daughter who transferred it to herself.
The morale of the story: Only allow trustworthy individuals to have powers to handle your affairs. If you find out that a person you thought was trustworthy is no longer to be trusted, act quickly to terminate his or her powers. Consult with an experienced and qualified estate planning attorney to do so.
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