Agents acting under durable powers of attorney are in a position to abuse their powers. Vulnerable elderly principals can be taken advantage of by the very persons they appointed to this position of trust.
Dennis R. Roddy, writing for the Pittsburgh Gazette, addressed this issue in "Courting Trouble: The document granting ‘power of attorney often leads to abuse." He writes:
""Once you give people unlimited authority, greed can overcome goodness," said Neil Hendershot, a Harrisburg attorney who has lobbied in the past for reforms in the law. Precisely how many times powers are abused is unclear because no one knows how many power of attorney documents exist. No court requires that they be filed when created, and in many instances, abuses are never uncovered."
Neil Hendershot’s blog post "POA Abuse Report and a PA POA Trial" discusses the AARP Public Policy Institute and the American Bar Association’s Commission on Law & Aging joint research report issued December 8, 2008 entitled "Power of Attorney Abuse: What States Can Do About It"
Not only is an agent breaching his or her fiduciary duty to the principal if the power is used to convert funds for the agent’s personal benefit – it’s also a crime. Lori A. Stiegel, J.D., of the American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging provides a fact sheet for Criminal Justice Professionals: "Durable Power of Attorney Abuse: It’s a Crime Too."
Matthew A. Christiansen has recently posted on SSRN his article entitled Unconscionable: Financial Exploitation of Elderly Persons with Dementia. See Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog for an abstract of the article.