Legislation that would amend the powers of attorney law to protect against abuse by those who hold the power of attorney cleared the Senate. The bill, SB 1092, now moves to the House.

The sponsor of the bill, state Senator Stewart Greenleaf, R-Montgomery, said in a statement that the legislation would give courts more power to act if financial abuse is suspected. It would require the signature of those granting power of attorney to be acknowledged in the presence of a notary public. In addition, the bill provides for a notification of the consequences of powers of attorney to be issued to those granting someone power of attorney.

In a statement, Greenleaf said the bill addresses the state Supreme Court’s decision in Vine v. Commonwealth. In that case, a woman who suffered a stroke following an automobile accident, while she was unable to speak or comprehend, was coerced into granting power of attorney to her husband. The husband later selected a retirement option for her that allowed him to make withdrawals and pay her less than the disability retirement option. He later divorced her. The retirement system denied her request to change her retirement plan to a disability option because they had relied in good faith on what appeared to be a valid power of attorney. The Supreme Court ruled that third parties, such as retirement systems or financial institutions, can no longer rely on the validity of a power of attorney without an investigation to confirm its legitimacy.

“Many cases of elder financial abuse involve family members or caregivers who hold power of attorney or have access to the person’s assets. Without making the process of gaining power of attorney too burdensome, this legislation would provide significantly more protection against those who are seeking to defraud the elderly,” Greenleaf said in a statement.

– John L. Kennedy, of the Law Weekly