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AARP AARP States Home & Family

Reforming Power of Attorney

Notary certified a power of attorney

A power of attorney is a legal document in which a person authorizes a trusted agent to make financial decisions on his or her behalf. It may be intended as a safeguard in case of future incapacity.

Power of attorney laws in some states, however, have failed to clarify the agent’s duties. Advocates for reform are concerned that the lack of standards may give unscrupulous agents a “license to steal.”

The District of Columbia’s power of attorney law hasn’t changed in 15 years. AARP DC is working to update it by adopting the Uniform Power of Attorney Act, which has been enacted in 17 states. The model law provides greater protection of vulnerable adults by setting strict rules and establishing financial penalties for abuse.

Financial abuse costs Americans $2.9 billion a year. For more information, email Ivan Lanier, AARP DC advocacy director, at

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