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A Guide To Protecting Yourself and Your Parents from Physical, Emotional and Financial Abuse

The Law Presumes you are Competent

This means that you absolutely cannot receive legal help until DHR or someone else determines you are in need of protection.

A court must then determine that you lack sufficient understanding to make or communicate responsible decisions or you cannot manage your own business affairs.

Many people cannot handle themselves or their business matters long before the government intervenes. Family members, neighbors, and friends may be well-meaning and act on your behalf. Others may seek to take advantage of you and your assets.

Protecting Yourself

If you give a trusted person a general durable power of attorney (POA), that person can act for you. This document is helpful because the power is durable, meaning that it remains in effect if you cannot act for yourself.

But, BEWARE, the power is effective from the time the document is signed so that you and your POA can act — at the same time. If this person is not trustworthy, your POA can steal everything you have.

Options For Protections

  • Make the Power of Attorney effective only if you become ill. Under this option, for the POA to come into effect, you need to have a group of people decide or a doctor write a letter stating you cannot act on your own behalf anymore.

  • Use a revocable living trust with an independent 3rd party as Trustee. Then if someone pressures you about the money you can say that they need to contact your trustee.

  • Establish a Revocable Living Trust (RLT) to hold all your assets in one place. RLT’s avoid probate and allow you to have a trustworthy person act on your behalf. RLT’s act like a Will upon your death.

Other Items to Watch Out For

DON’T put another person’s name on your checking account, CD’s or Investments as a joint owner — that makes them co-owners of your accounts and they can remove your funds without your knowledge.

DON’T let a family member who has been distant suddenly come in and take over. This “seagull” relative will only fly in, take what he or she wants, and leave everything a mess!

BE CAREFUL with the powers you give your POA agent. Read the document very carefully and ask questions. If you name your spouse as agent, be sure there is a provision that if you are divorced, he or she no longer serves on your behalf.

If you don’t have anyone whom you can trust, it is better to have a trust company or bank handle your finances for you.

If you own real estate, be sure that the power is notarized or else the agent cannot act on real estate matters.