If an elderly person isfraudulently inducedinto signing a Power of Attorney, is it valid?

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If an elderly person isfraudulently inducedinto signing a Power of Attorney, is it valid?

I have an elder aunt who recently had a debilitating stroke. Prior to the stroke, my aunt lived independently and her mind and memory were intact. She lived in a senior community in which she rented an apartment. A cousin of mine is on the board of this community and helped my aunt obtain this apartment. However, my aunt hated it and complained about it every day. Mostly because her apartment cost more and she is on a fixed income and it hadn’t seen upgrades in decades nor was it energy efficient. Prior to the stroke, this cousin informed my aunt that this senior community required each resident to maintain a POA for property and health care. At the time of the stroke, I was surprised that my aunt had signed anything. She was a habitual procrastinator and pinched her pennies consistently. In fact, this cousin informed me that she had lied to my aunt to get her to sign the POA papers by telling her, “That it is the law”. Prior to the stroke my cousin made the appointment to the attorney’s office, drove my aunt to the attorney’s office, and somehow become POA for both health care and property. My aunt never paid for these services because my cousin took “care of this”. After research, I found no by-law in this senior community, or local or state laws, which mandate a senior citizen to have a POA (although I would agree it is preferable). My aunt would never have signed these papers if she knew.My cousin cannot and could not maintain impartiality when it came time to dispose of my aunt’s possessions. “Due to safety concerns” this cousin refused to provide the extra key (which we knew she had possession of) for myself, my sibling, or my father and mother. When we were finally granted some access my cousin advised us to “leave the door unlocked” (safety?) Now she withholds timely medical information from the immediate family and has already violated my aunt’s health care directive by artificially keeping her alive. If I pursue next steps to remove this cousin from POA, what am I looking at in terms of proof and what is my probability of prevailing?

Asked on January 30, 2011 under Estate Planning, Illinois

Answers:

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

A lawsuit on your aunt's behalf could be filed against the cousin for fraud.  Fraud is the misrepresentation of a material fact made with knowledge of its falsity and with the intent to induce reliance on which your aunt justifiably relied to her detriment.   Fraud will invalidate the documents your aunt signed. 

Evidence of your aunt being subjected to undue influence in order to obtain her signature on the documents would support the claim of fraud. 

Although it is not possible to predict the outcome of a case, evidence of fraud supported by undue influence on your aunt, will increase your likelihood of prevailing in the lawsuit.   


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