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Power of attorney is an estate planning tool that can be misused

There are many tools available to those seeking to have their affairs in order in advance of their demise. Granting power of attorney over one's finances is an excellent choice for many older people to consider while attending to their estate planning. It is, however, a power subject to abuse, and careful consideration is prudent before granting it to someone. A person in northern Ontario is no doubt regretting their choice after his or her accounts were used for the personal benefit of another.

Ontario Provincial Police in Kapuskasing were alerted to potentially fraudulent activity on Feb. 15, 2016. The investigation took a long time, but police were able to determine that two suspects had made purchases locally, withdrawn money and written cheques from the account of an elderly citizen. The accused had power of attorney over the victim's finances.

Power of attorney allows one person to make financial decisions and transactions on behalf of another who may no longer be physically or mentally capable of doing so for him or herself. In this particular case, however, the suspects' actions were found to be outside the purview of the power granted. Police arrested both parties and charged them with fraud and possession of property obtained by crime. 

It is a shame when people take advantage of the trust others have placed in them. Incidents like these should not discourage people from granting power of attorney but should serve as a warning to choose carefully and to make decisions before one's mental capacity has diminished. A lawyer who fully understands estate planning in Ontario can help a person make critical decisions such as this one.

Source: timminstoday.com, "Two accused of using elderly person's cheques, withdrawing money", March 16, 2017

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