Planning aging while you are competent and able to find suitable help is paramount to your success in later years.
An Iowa criminal case that finished up its appeals process recently, shows us how elderly individuals can be easily abused, both physically and financially. In this case, Mr. Bean, an non relative care giver was convicted of involuntary manslaughter, two counts of second-degree theft, neglect of a dependent person, and two counts of dependent adult abuse.
Here are the facts: Bean rented farm property from a brother and sister without close family. He got himself appointed as power of attorney holder and named beneficiary under their wills and became a contract purchaser of the pair's property at below market value. When Bean did get a bank loan to pay off the contract purchase, he used his power of attorney to give the sale proceeds right back to him and his wife. Bean paid his personal bills with the pairs funds. After the brother's death, Bean relocated the sister to a remote farm house and lived with her. The sister, from the time of the move until her death received no medical attention, even though she had been previously prescribed medication for a variety of issues. In the year she lived with her power of attorney holder before her death, her weight went from 134 pounds to 74 and her right arm had been broken, but had never been set. She had broken ribs and bruising.
How can this happen in Iowa? Easy, when a person executes certain duties under a financial power of attorney for another individual, the courts have a very limited ability to review those actions. Bean isolated this couple and took advantage of them with no checks on balances on his authority and power. We as a society have no positive duty to act without a relationship to another person. That means that it is not crime to watch someone get wounded or worse if you don't owe that person a duty (like a power of attorney, guardian, care giver, etc, etc). We in Iowa have a mind your own business attitude. Coupled with the privacy laws and policies, often times people can see a piece but not enough to see the trend.
I am sure Bean could have loaded up the brother and sister and hauled them to a new attorney that they didn't know to have the documents drafted. That attorney has no way of knowing if current documents are in place. Even simpler, Bean could have downloaded generic forms from the internet and arranged for a notary stamp at a well intentioned real estate agent's office or a local bank.
The best way to protect yourself is to arrange for care with a blend of advocates you can trust. I am sure Bean offered lower cost care and that appealed to the thrift minded victims in this case. It truly turned about to be penny wise and pound foolish.