Friday, October 25, 2013
Earlier this week, I posted an update about state law reform movements regarding Powers of Attorney, including the Uniform Power of Attorney Act of 2006 (UPOAA), which so far has been adopted in 13 states and is currently under consideration in Pennsylvania and Mississippi.
I've been getting very interesting responses, and I'll try to capture some here in the blog as I have time. To start things rolling, I'll share some thoughtful comments from Robert Slutsky, a Pennsylvania attorney who focuses his practice on elder law, estate planning and administration, guardianships and real estate . He's also a '92 grad of the Dickinson School of Law, so he's been doing this awhile. He gave me permission to excerpt his emails.
In writing to me, Robert said he was adopting the role of devil's advocate. Certainly turn-around is fair play for graduates with law professors! Based on his experiences, he worries about law reform efforts that could make POAs less useful to the majority of people who use them properly. Restrictions could be penalizing the wrong people. As he puts it succinctly, "Occasional problems with POAs result from evil people who know what is right and wrong and choose to do wrong.... Trying to solve a problem caused by bad people by restricting those who use POAS properly is ineffective and counterproductive."
Robert also serves as the solicitor for a county adult protective services unit, and he does see instances of financial exploitation, although he says he sees more cases of caregiver neglect or self neglect. That observation is consistent with annual reports in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. Unfortunately, data on abuse is not regularly collected or evaluated on a national level, as discussed in the July 2013 GAO Report to Congress on "Elder Justice: More Federal Coordination and Public Awareness Needed."
Robert Slutsky says that even when he sees financial abuse, it "rarely" involves POAs as the tool to victimize older persons. He also warns that while a prosecutor may view a case of a child using a elderly parent's money as "abusive," a full history may show a long pattern of parental approval or tacit permission, and thus with families it can often be a "gray area" regarding permitted use.
Thank you, Robert.
Readers, feel free to add your comments, either to the original post or below.