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Dallas Estate Litigation and Planning Blog

How to Approach Power of Attorney Abuse

Suspecting that someone you trusted is abusing their power of attorney can be the cause of immense emotional anguish. However, power of attorney abuse does happen, and it is important to know how to handle the situation if you believe that someone is behaving unethically toward you or a loved one.

What Is Power of Attorney?

Power of attorney is a legal arrangement that provides a designated Agent to make legal decisions on behalf of another person (the Principal). Sometimes, for example, a particularly busy individual will give power of attorney to their financial planner so that they can sell and buy stocks on their behalf. In other cases, an Agent may be granted power of attorney if an older adult becomes incapacitated in some way.

What Is Power of Attorney Abuse?

Power of attorney abuse occurs when the Agent is not acting in the best interest of the Principal. In many power of attorney abuse cases, the Agent is taking advantage of an older Principal for the Agent’s own financial gain.

Power of attorney abuse can come in the following forms:

  • Fraud
  • Theft
  • Forgery
  • Misappropriation
  • Self-dealing
  • Breach of fiduciary duty

Contesting Power of Attorney

If a family believes that an Agent is taking the Principal’s property for themselves, the family may seek to invalidate the Agent’s power of attorney. Sometimes these cases can be resolved between parties through negotiation or mediation. However, if these methods fail, it may be necessary to go to court.

Proving Power of Attorney Abuse

Agents who have power of attorney are legally obligated to act in and for the best interest of the Principal. For this reason, financial records can usually make it clear when power of attorney abuse has happened because they will demonstrate that the Agent has gained something at the expense of the Principal. As soon as the Agent behaves in a manner that results in their own personal gain rather than that of the Principal, this constitutes a breach of the Agent’s fiduciary duty.

There are several signs that an Agent may be abusing their power of attorney, such as:

  • A sudden change in the Principal’s financial position
  • An Agent who refuses to share information or records with the Principal
  • An Agent who demands that the Principal sign unexplained or unfamiliar documents
  • Identity theft, financial exploitation, or fraud

If you notice any of these signs, it is essential that you contact an experienced lawyer as soon as possible. They will be able to investigate the matter and determine whether there is serious cause for concern. If an estate litigation attorney suspects that power of attorney abuse is occurring, they can send the Agent legal communications that may be enough to bring the abuse to a halt.

Will a Person Who Commits Power of Attorney Abuse Go to Jail?

Power of attorney abuse is considered a civil matter rather than a criminal one. For this reason, those who commit power of attorney abuse generally will not face any criminal charges and will therefore not go to jail.

Mediation, Negotiation, and Civil Court Proceedings

If court proceedings begin in power of attorney abuse cases, they will take place in a civil court. However, most estate litigation attorneys attempt to handle power of attorney abuse cases via mediation or negotiated settlements. This is because they can be resolved more quickly and at a much lower financial cost outside of court. Sometimes, once an Agent is confronted with evidence of power of attorney abuse, they will willingly return financial assets to avoid being taken to court.

If the Agent denies that they have committed power of attorney abuse, civil court proceedings become more likely. These proceedings can be time-consuming and expensive. However, experienced estate litigation attorneys will generally recommend taking a case to civil court if they expect that the assets recovered will exceed the court costs and attorney fees.

Contact an Experienced Estate Litigation Attorney Today

If you believe that you or a loved one may be the victim of power of attorney abuse, the Dallas estate litigation lawyers of Staubus and Randall are here to help. Our experienced legal team has helped many clients across the state of Texas reach favorable outcomes in matters involving power of attorney abuse, fraud, and exploitation. We are ready to do the same for you.

We will fight for your best interests at every step of the process. Contact us for a case evaluation by calling 214-691-3411 today. We look forward to helping you through this difficult time.

The Firm

The attorneys at Staubus and Randall have over 100 years of combined experience in estate planning, probate, and litigation. We have the knowledge and skills to tackle complex legal issues, such as guardianships, will contests, fiduciary litigation, and trust litigation. We can also handle routine matters, such as estate administration, probating wills, heirship determinations, and other probate court matters.

Staubus and Randall received a preeminent AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating possible from a peer-rated legal service. This rating recognizes our hard work, dedication, and the case results we’re able to achieve.

Staubus & Randall Team

What Our Clients Say

"I recently had the occasion to hire Mr. Staubus for a hotly contested Guardianship matter. Mr. Staubus brought a rare combination of effectiveness, reasonableness and understanding of the human element involved. Mr. Staubus handled all things in a calm, highly competent, effective and reasonable way. It could not have been as easy as he made it seem. He's a credit to the Bar."

Jody

"Before retaining the guidance of the Staubus & Randall firm, I was at my wit's end trying to close an uncle's estate as a co-executor. In addition to dealing with difficult heirs, I had other pressing business issues coming up immediately on estate land in the middle of the Eagleford Shale including dealings with pipeline, seismic, oil & gas, and construction companies. The local bank also refused to give me access to information relating to the estate. This quickly became the most stressful and desperate time in my life...and then I found Joseph Legere who truly became my guardian angel. He was able to get all issues resolved efficiently and the estate fully closed. His professionalism, immense legal knowledge on a wide variety of topics, and amazing communication skills took the burdens off of me and quickly got closure. I am forever indebted to this firm for giving me my life back."

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Joann

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Karen

"I have required legal representation twice in my life in two separate will contests. Both times I sought assistance from Keith Staubus and Staubus/Randall. Their service, approach, and determination to obtain results exceeded the other attorneys in each case. Mr. Staubus has always come across as genuine while being direct. He gets the process done in a timely manner with results. I will certainly use him again when and if any new challenges arise.”

David

"After my husband's death, I was devastated by having to defend against a vicious dispute over my husband's estate. Julie Blankenship and Keith Staubus made me feel very comfortable in this distressing situation. They were very tough and did an excellent job for me in obtaining a summary judgment in my favor without a full jury trial. I was glad to have them and Diane Walker in my corner to help me achieve an excellent result - I won! If I ever had to go back to probate court, I would hire them again.” - (will and trust construction case)

Flo

"If you need intervention for someone you love but don't know where to turn or who to turn to, Julie Blankenship and Keith Staubus helped me through the most difficult and stressful time in my life with a much loved family member. I now believe that good will triumph over evil. They fought for what was right, and good prevailed." (contested guardianship and will contest)

Janet

"As a professional money manager, I have used Ryan Randall's estate planning services both personally and for my clients. Ryan has exhibited three critical attributes in his work with me: (1) high intellectual capacity, (2) exceptional thoroughness, and (3) a total commitment to integrity. In today's litigious world, it can be quite costly not to "get things done right.” An added bonus to us was that we found one of the nicest people we could imagine.”

John

"I was represented by Keith Staubus as an income beneficiary in a lawsuit with the trustee of a family trust. Utilizing the expertise of a forensic accountant and his own trust expertise, Keith was able to negotiate a judicial modification of the trust providing for the buyout of my income interest for a substantial lump sum payment out of the trust, resulting in a win-win situation for all of the parties. I highly recommend Staubus/Randall for any trust disputes and trust modification actions."

Kathy

"I have been a wealth management specialist and retirement plan consultant with the Dallas/Fort Worth financial community for over 20 years. I have engaged Ryan Randall to work with a number of my best clients over the years, including business owners, professionals and families. My clients always appreciate Ryan’s straightforward approach to estate planning, asset protection planning and business succession planning. He makes even the most sophisticated estate planning strategies understandable."

Larry

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