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The Need to Update DC’s Power of Attorney Law

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District residents should feel secure in the knowledge that the law protects their valuable assets from fraud. The proposed Uniform Power of Attorney Act (UPOAA) not only modernizes District law but would also act like a permission slip for the Power of Attorney (POA), financial institutions, and community creating distinct rules that protect seniors and vulnerable individuals.

What is a Financial Power of Attorney?

A financial power of attorney (“POA”) is a tool that protects a person’s finances even when they cannot speak for themselves. It is a legal document used to designate someone to act on their behalf in financial matters as an “agent.” The POA grants the agent with extensive authority, including powers that impact the individual’s property and assets.

The Problem

The DC Financial Power of Attorney Act is out-of-date. It has not been updated in 15 years, and since then, the District and the rest of the world has entered the age of email, digital banking, and identity theft. The out-of-date DC law is inadequate to protect District residents against financial exploitation. Unfortunately, it allows agents to abuse POA powers and financially exploit seniors and vulnerable populations with little to no legal ramifications. It essentially gives these agents a license to steal with no legal consequence.

The Opportunity

Lawmakers in the District have an opportunity to address the serious and ongoing problem of elder financial fraud and exploitation committed by a POA. Legal Counsel for the Elderly and AARP DC are working with the District Council to pass the Uniform Power of Attorney Act of 2019 (UPOAA) and strengthen protections for seniors and all District residents. We recognize the immense value of a valid POA, and do not want residents of the District to experience harm if they have one, or, perhaps, worse, avoid executing a POA at all, given the inadequate law.

The Strengths of the Proposed Bill

The proposed amendments to the District’s UPOAA would:

  • Clarify what constitutes a valid POA, thus making it easier for seniors to use and understand the important tool;
  • Provide banks and other relevant third parties with discretion to investigate suspected financial exploitation from agents; and
  • Help streamline the process for collecting damages related to an agent’s exploitation, in hopes of helping seniors recover after such horrific actions.

Let’s make sure the Council passes UPOAA so POAs have a permission slip, not a license to steal.

Submitted by Legal Counsel for the Elderly, an affiliate of AARP providing free legal and social work services to low and moderate-income District residents, age 60 and older.

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