On December 24, 2012

Colorado residents who put off making plans for the end of their lives often reason that they don’t know where to begin. Others confess to a fear of making mistakes in the process, which usually leads to procrastination. There’s nothing wrong with not having the tools you need for effective estate planning, as long as you’re willing to seek them out. Searching for the right answers is far preferable to doing nothing out of fear you’ll do it wrong. And the more you know, the less likely you are to make the same mistakes that have befallen others.

Many Coloradans have heard stories of people being taken advantage of, especially the elderly. Elder abuse is all too common, and unfortunately, many times the perpetrators are family members the victims trust. For example, a man who used to live in Boulder recently fell into legal trouble for exploiting the trust of his mother-in-law. The woman, a 94-year-old retired professor at the University of Colorado, lives in Boulder, where she receives nursing care. Like many adults her age, she suffers from dementia and is unable to make competent decisions regarding her well-being or her finances.

The man was given power of attorney over the woman’s estate in 2005 after his wife passed away. It was sometime after that when he began to take out loans on his mother-in-law’s house and drained her financial accounts. He even stopped paying for her nursing care. It wasn’t until the woman’s other family members stepped in to investigate that they realized he’d been stealing from her. The man, now 62, recently pleaded guilty to misdemeanor and felony theft charges. He could receive up to six years in prison when he’s sentenced in February.

This case demonstrates that designating power of attorney is not a decision to take lightly. Colorado residents who are beginning to plan their own estates would do well to think carefully about whom they choose to make decisions for them in the event they become incapacitated. This step is just as important as writing a will or putting funds in a trust for an heir. After all, if the person you put in charge ends up abusing that power, you could end up with little to nothing left in your estate to pass down after you’re gone.

Source: Daily Camera, “Man pleads guilty to stealing from elderly Boulder mother-in-law,” Dec. 10, 2012

  • Our firm is ready to help you with establishing power of attorney and many other estate planning matters. To learn more about our practice, please visit our Colorado estate and trust administration page.

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