Father’s girlfriend took entire estate using power of attorney and refusing contact with family memebers

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Father’s girlfriend took entire estate using power of attorney and refusing contact with family memebers

My father’s girlfriend did not allow our family to speak with him in his final
days, always saying he was asleep and unable to speak. Due to a HIPPA breach
committed by my former employer and insurance company, said girlfriend was aware
that I was busy caring for my wife, who was being treated for late stage cancer.
The HIPPA breach occurred in September of 2013 and my father died the following
April of 2014. Am I too late to call for investigation of her power of attorney
and my losses due to the HIPPA breach, which allowed the girlfriend and her
family to take advantage of an already bad situation?

Asked on November 12, 2017 under Estate Planning, Missouri

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

The HIPPA breach has nothing to do with the estate in a legal sense: it does not directly cause the girlfriend to act improperly, and there is an insufficiently foreseeable or predictable causal link to take action about the breach in this regard (i.e. no one or almost no one would predict in advance that information about your wife could cause your father's girlfriend to abuse a POA).
IF you can show that the girlfriend did abuse the POA--that is, she used the power conferred by it for her own advantage, not in your father's interests, and that she was also not acting in accordance with his wishes--you may be able to recover money for his estate from her: the persons granted power by POAs (who are called either the "attorney-in-fact" or the "agent") have a "fiduciary duty" imposed by law to act in the interests of and/or in accordance with the wishes of the "principal" (person giving the POA; your father in this case). But you have to be able to show that the money was taken for her benefit, not his (or their joint benefit: e.g. paying the rent or mortgage on someplace they both lived) and also was not in accord with what he instructed her to do, which may be difficult for you; you have an uphill case, because the baseline or default assumption is that the attorney-in-fact is acting properly when she exercises the power given her.


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