Des Moines – AARP applauds today’s action by the Iowa Senate for their unanimous passage of much-needed uniform power of attorney legislation, Senate File 2168, a bill creating an Iowa Uniform Power of Attorney Act (UPOAA). AARP fought for passage of the UPOAA to help curb the growing problem of elder financial abuse.
“We commend the Iowa Senate and the Iowa House of Representatives for working through the complexities of the issue of elder abuse and coming up with a very strong bill to better protect vulnerable Iowans and their families from this growing problem,” said AARP State President Tony Vola. “AARP advocated passage of a Uniform Power of Attorney Act as the most important tool Iowa can use to combat the devastating problem of financial exploitation of elders. Passage gives older Iowans and their families greater peace of mind with the assurance of stronger protections against financial abuse and exploitation,” said Vola.
Multiple national studies have found that financial exploitation is the most common and under-reported type of elder abuse, with estimates that one of every six adults over age 64 has been a victim of financial abuse.
A power of attorney is a legal document that allows someone to make decisions on behalf of someone else. A power of attorney document can be a useful tool in the event of future incapacity and can avoid the need for court appointment of a guardian or conservator. But power of attorney misuse and abuse can lead to dire consequences for the person it was meant to benefit.
Many Iowans are fortunate to have a power of attorney agent who fulfills their responsibilities. This legislation addresses the unfortunate cases where an agent representing an Iowa adult either fails to understand his or her responsibilities, misuses the power of attorney, or outright abuses the power of attorney, all of which hurt the individual and his or her family.
For the past two years, AARP Iowa has been active on the Iowa Elder Abuse Taskforce, working with state leaders, advocates and other organizations appointed by the Iowa General Assembly to study the issue of elder abuse in our state and recommend actions to combat it. Passage of a strong Uniform Power of Attorney Act UPOAA was a consensus taskforce recommendation and a legislative priority of Iowa Bar Association.
The UPOAA contains a number of key provisions that protect against abuse and promote choice. Highlights include provisions that:
• Clarify the mandatory and default duties of the agent and indicate when an agent must disclose information about his or her actions to third parties such as courts or adult protective services;
• Set forth the powers that an agent cannot exercise unless the POA expressly authorizes such actions;
• Indicate who may petition a court to construe a POA or review an agent’s conduct;
• Establish liability for agents who violate the POA law by abusing or misusing their power; and
• Increase the ability of Iowans to use and have their valid POA documents accepted by improving and limiting the circumstances which 3rd parties (financial institutions, health care facilities) can reject POA documents.
AARP urges Governor Branstad to sign SF 2168 to more effectively address the growing problem of elder financial abuse in our state and help older Iowans and their families have the protections they need to take action against current and future abuse.