Garton & Harris

Think carefully before assigning power of attorney

People today are living longer, on average, than ever before, especially here in British Columbia. For some, the reality of this increasing longevity is a decreasing ability to make decisions about their own lives, including finances. A good option is choosing to grant power of attorney to a trusted family member or loved one before the day comes that they are no longer able to take care of themselves. However, much thought must be given when selecting the person who will be making those decisions on their behalf, as one elderly man recently discovered.

On Nov. 2, 2016, a woman sat in court and listened as a judge passed sentence on her for stealing from her elderly father-in-law. She had earlier pleaded guilty to the theft, a process that had been ongoing for more than eight years. The woman had been granted power of attorney over the man's affairs in 2006.

Using her access to the man's bank account, the woman began using the funds for her own personal benefit. Purchases included a new car, home renovations and vacations, including a trip to Hawaii. Although the total amount of money stolen has not yet been determined, the prosecution maintains the figure is around $200,000. The man's daughter, sister-in-law to the accused, eventually caught on to the crime and reported her to the authorities. The judge handed down a sentence of two years in prison, and a repayment of an amount to be determined later.

It is sad when a person's trust is so willfully broken as it was in this case. For some, the temptation is too great when faced with an easy windfall like an accessible bank account. When a man or a woman awards the power of attorney to help ease their future burden, great care must be taken to ensure the right person is chosen for the job. Consulting with a lawyer that deals with estate law in British Columbia, may make the decision a little easier to make.

Source:, "Pierce County woman sentenced for stealing thousands from grandfather with dementia", John Nicely, Nov. 2, 2016

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