The fiduciary responsibility of an agent (under power of attorney) or trustee is serious and often a difficult and thankless job. The role also provides a mechanism for an agent (adult child, friend, trusted adviser, etc.) to take extreme advantage of the principal (aging parent, developmentally delayed adult, etc.). A fiduciary is required to act in the principal's "best interest". Protecting our family, friends, neighbors and community from elder fraud, abuse and neglect is up to all of us. Do your friends and loved ones a favor and watch out for red flags including:
On the flip side, acting as the agent, you should always be alert to the potential liability you face from future beneficiaries, family members, and the principal himself/herself. Even when the principal passes away, you may be called on by the personal representative (executor) of the estate to account for money and assets you managed under a power of attorney. Protect yourself from claims by putting the following steps in place from the onset of your duties:
The law regarding powers of attorney has been updated in Washington, effective January 1, 2017, with a number of changes. Make sure your documents are up-to-date and if it has been over five years since you had them drafted last, it is a good idea to get them redone. If you are acting as an agent and have questions regarding your duties, rights, or liabilities, please contact our office.
Megan M. Lewis