Des Moines – AARP volunteers, state leaders, and long-term care advocates urged lawmakers to support the strongest version of legislation to improve protections for families against the devastating problem of financial exploitation of elders in Iowa.
Although drastically under reported, the illegal use of an elder’s income or assets has become an increasingly common crime in Iowa and across the country. Multiple national studies find financial exploitation of seniors is the most common type of elder abuse, estimating one of every six adults over the age of 65 has been a victim of elder financial abuse.
Recognizing that power of attorney documents often serve as powerful tools for exploiters, AARP, the Iowa Office of the State Long Term Ombudsman and many other groups support strengthening Iowa laws pertaining to financial powers of attorney.
“Elder financial abuse is a pervasive problem that impacts Iowans across the social-economic spectrum,” said Deanna Clingan-Fischer, Iowa State Long-Term Care Ombudsman.
“Many Iowans are fortunate to have an agent under a power of attorney who upholds their power of attorney responsibilities. However, there are also too many stories where an agent representing the principal either fails to understand his or her responsibilities, misuses the power of attorney, or outright abuses the power of attorney, all of which negatively impact the principal. ” said Clingan-Fischer.
“AARP supports passage of SF2168 to better protect Iowa residents and benefit Iowa businesses and the courts,” said AARP State President Tony Vola. “Passage of SF 2168, an Iowa version of the Uniform Power of Attorney Act (UPOAA) as recommended by the Iowa State Bar Association Probate Section, is one of the most important measures the Iowa legislature can take this year to combat the devastating problem of financial exploitation of elders in Iowa,” said Vola.
AARP State Director Kent Sovern said AARP supports passage of the State Bar Association’s UPOAA recommendations in SF 2168 and is urging lawmakers to insist on two key provisions. He said the Senate version contains two essential provisions currently not included the House bill:
1. Allowing the UPOA law to apply and protect current situation of power of attorney abuse rather than only new power of attorney relationships drafted and executed after July 1, 2014, and
2. Ensuring that individuals and institutions do not have veto power to deny a valid, acknowledged power of attorney when the standardized power of attorney form is used.
“Since we know power of attorney abuse is an existing problem in Iowa, we will fail those current victims of financial abuse if we limit the law to new agreements only,” said Sovern. “SF 2168 would allow Iowans who are concerned that current abuse may be occurring to petition a court for review of the agent’s conduct. HSB 625 would only grant that possible intervention power in new power of attorney situations.”
While both bill versions create a standardized form that parties can opt to use in crafting a valid power of attorney, Sovern said HSB 625 would allow individuals and institutions to reject that form and insist on something else after the power of attorney has been executed.
“This defeats a major purpose of this law seeking greater clarity, certainty and standards, and would result in confusion, and unnecessary delays especially because the represented individual would likely be incapacitated and most in need of immediate assistance.”
Sovern said AARP and other supporters of UPOAA will advocate for these two essential provisions to be included in this top AARP priority of UPOAA passage in Iowa. “This situation is at crisis level,” said Sovern. “SF 2168 would go a long way to addressing the problem and helping older Iowans and their families have the protection they need to take action against current and future abuse.”