The mother previously granted the daughter a power of attorney. The mother suffered from dementia that had been progressing for several years. With that power of attorney the daughter arranged for her mother to sign away to her several hundred thousand dollars of real property. The daughter also made herself the beneficiary of her mother’s investments. She obtained several credit cards in her mother’s name and used those cards for her own purposes. Finally, she used her mother’s bank account to arrange for thousands of dollars of “gifts” to herself.
We attempted to resolve the matter without litigation, but when that failed we filed suit for the mother. The daughter denied her liability but after lengthy documentary production and proof she agreed to repay her mother the thousands of dollar she had taken in “gifts” and she agreed to be responsible for the credit cards that she had taken out. She returned the real property and removed her name for the investments when the court ordered her to do that.
All that then remained was the mothers claim for attorney fees. After a hearing into the merits of the claim for attorney fees, the court agreed with the mother that the daughter should reimburse her mother for the fees and expenses related to bringing the lawsuit.
This case involved principles of elder care, powers of attorney and the Vulnerable Adults Act. Anytime anyone acts under the terms of a power of attorney, or a guardianship, or a conservatorship, that person must remember that the funds of the other person do not belong to them. Just because they can spend it does not mean it is theirs. Those funds must be spent for the benefit of the person who granted the power of attorney or the ward of the conservatorship or guardianship. Doing otherwise can create civil, and criminal, liability.