In connection with an upcoming class on guardianship, I recently surveyed a number of clerks of superior court (judicial officials who preside over guardianship cases in NC) about common post-appointment problems among guardians. My questions focused on non-attorney individuals serving as general guardians and guardians of the estate. Here are some specific issues identified related to those guardians charged with managing an incompetent adult’s property under G.S. Chapter 35A of the NC General Statutes. For purposes of this post, “guardian” means a guardian of the estate or general guardian.Continue Reading
I previously wrote about an agent’s authority to make gifts under the new North Carolina Uniform Power of Attorney Act (NCUPOAA) that went into effect in North Carolina on January 1, 2018. There are two additional points to keep in mind if you are an agent, a third party, or a court examining the agent’s authority granted by the principal to make gifts under a POA. Continue Reading
Mary signs a power of attorney (POA) appointing her son, Frank, as her agent authorized to act on her behalf. The POA is acknowledged by a notary public and states that the agent has the authority to do all acts that the principal could do. The POA is effective immediately and durable by default under the new North Carolina Uniform Power of Attorney Act (NCPOAA) effective January 1, 2018. S.L. 2017-153 (S569) (not applicable to health care POAs or consent to health care for a minor under G.S. Chapter 32A).
Months later, Mary suffers a massive stroke and is no longer able to manage her property or business affairs because she is unable to make or communicate decisions. Frank retrieves the original POA from Mary’s safe and takes it to the bank and attempts to withdraw money from Mary’s checking account to pay some of her bills. The bank refuses to accept the POA and conduct the transaction. A friend of Frank’s notes he had a similar problem with his father’s POA. He had to ultimately seek court-ordered guardianship of his father to be able to conduct the necessary transactions on his father’s behalf because of the bank’s refusal to accept the POA. Is Frank stuck because of the bank’s refusal? Must he obtain guardianship to be able to carry out his duties under the POA on behalf of Mary?
The new North Carolina Uniform Power of Attorney Act (the Act) goes into effect on January 1, 2018. I recently blogged about the judicial relief provisions under the Act here. Next Tuesday, December 12th from noon to 1:15 pm, the School of Government in partnership with the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts will be offering a free webinar on this new law. The Honorable James Stanford, Clerk of Superior Court, Orange County, Allison Smith, NCAOC assistant legal counsel, Janice Davies, an attorney with Davies Law, PLLC, and I will be presenting. Anyone can register for the webinar here. Note, registration closes tomorrow at noon. Continue Reading
On July 20, 2017, Governor Cooper signed Session Law 2017-153 (S569) known as the North Carolina Uniform Power of Attorney Act (NCPOAA). This new law goes into effect on January 1, 2018 and applies to powers of attorney (POA) in North Carolina. It repeals provisions in GS Chapter 32A that pertain primarily to financial POAs, including the statutory short form POA in Article 1 and the enforcement provisions in Article 5. It creates a new GS Chapter 32C. It does not apply to POAs that grant authority to a person to make health care decisions for another person. Article 3, health care POAs, and Article 4, consent to health care for a minor, under GS Chapter 32A continue to apply and are mostly unaffected by the NCPOAA.
The NCPOAA adopts, in large part, the Uniform Power of Attorney Act published by the Uniform Law Commission (ULC). In both the uniform law and the NCPOAA, there are sections on judicial relief. As noted by the ULC, the purpose of this judicial relief is two-fold: (i) to protect vulnerable or incapacitated persons who grant authority to another under a POA against financial abuse, and (ii) to protect the self-determination rights of the principal. Uniform Power of Attorney Act, Comment, Sec. 116.
The judicial relief provisions as adopted in NC are heavily modified from the uniform law. This is due in part to the fact that the judicial relief provisions under the NCPOAA specifically list proceedings that may be brought under the act and allocate jurisdiction over those proceedings between the clerk, who serves as the ex officio judge of probate in NC, and the superior or district court. The distribution of jurisdiction under the NCPOAA among these judicial officials mirrors estate proceedings under GS 28A-2-4. There are proceedings that are exclusively within the clerk’s jurisdiction, ones that are initiated before the clerk but may be transferred by a party to superior court, and then finally proceedings that are excluded from the clerk’s jurisdiction. The NCPOAA also sets forth the procedures, standing, venue, and appeal rights for these proceedings.
Faith and Julie have been neighbors and friends for over twenty years. They are both 75 years old and take daily walks together. Julie was recently diagnosed with dementia. Her daughter, Abby, lives a few hours away and is her general guardian, but rarely visits her mother. Abby hired an in-home aide to assist Julie around the house. When Faith tries to visit Julie during the day, the aide tells Faith that Julie is no longer up for visits from her or anyone else. Faith noticed the aide often leaves for hours at a time during the day and locks Julie in the house while she is gone. A mutual friend told Faith she recently saw Julie and the aide at an estate lawyer’s office and Julie mentioned she was changing her will. Faith grows worried about Julie and calls Abby to express her concerns. Abby is overwhelmed with stress in her own life and states that she trusts the aide, but will check in on her mother soon. Faith doesn’t see Abby visit or any changes to the aide or the aide’s behavior.
In my previous posts, available here and here, I described elder abuse generally and how adult protective services (APS) through the county departments of social services and guardianship proceedings before the clerk of superior court can be tools to protect against elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation (hereinafter, referred to as “abuse”). However, just because someone has a guardian, it does not mean the risks of such abuse are eliminated. In fact, guardians, such as Abby, often create circumstances for such abuse by leaving the adult in vulnerable positions and failing to monitor the adult’s care. In addition, guardians may be the source of such abuse by taking advantage of and exploiting the authority they are given. One recent report commissioned by the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging examined such abuse by guardians after growing concern of abusive practices by guardians. The study concluded the extent of such abuse is unknown nationally due to limited data but there is some evidence that financial exploitation by a guardian is one of the most common types of elder abuse, which frequently includes the guardian overcharging for services that were either not necessary or never performed or misusing the adult’s money by incurring excessive dining and vehicle expenses. See Elder Abuse Report, pg. 11 and 14.
The risk of the abuse of an adult under guardianship may be mitigated by (i) court screening of potential guardians through criminal and financial background checks and guardian training or certification requirements, and (ii) court oversight after a guardian is appointed through the filing with the court of status reports, which are reports on the care, comfort, and maintenance of the adult, and accountings, which are reports on the financial affairs of the adult. Even with effective screening and oversight, abuse may still occur when someone has a guardian.
So, what steps may someone, like Faith, who is concerned about abuse of someone under guardianship either by the guardian or a third-party take to protect the adult? Continue Reading
The United Nations declared tomorrow as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. In North Carolina, Governor Cooper declared the time period spanning from Mother’s Day to Father’s Day Vulnerable Adult and Elder Abuse Awareness Month. The Governor’s proclamation recognizes NC’s “vulnerable and older adults of all social, economic, racial, and ethnic backgrounds may be targets of abuse, neglect, or exploitation which can occur in families, long-term care settings, and communities.”Continue Reading
In my last post, I wrote about the office of the clerk of superior court and the clerk’s judicial authority. I provided a basic framework for this authority and noted that that the clerk’s non-criminal authority falls into three main categories:
- estates and trusts,
- civil, and
- special proceedings.
Betty is 75 years old and lives alone. She was recently diagnosed with dementia. Betty’s daughter, Pam, helps look after her mother and pay her monthly bills, but has noticed a decline in Betty’s memory and ability to communicate. Upon reviewing Betty’s monthly bank statement, Pam noticed three large payments to companies Pam did not recognize. After some investigation, Pam discovered that the drafts were the result of a telemarketer scam. To stop future drafts, Pam went to the bank and asked them to close Betty’s account. However, the bank refused to close the account without Betty’s authorization and told Pam that she would need to obtain guardianship of Betty to be able to close the account. Betty refused to consent to close the account as she was afraid Pam was trying to take too much control over her life.
Pam went online, did some research, and decided to seek interim guardianship of her mother so that she can quickly block the telemarketers from accessing her mom’s account. What are some things Pam should keep in mind about interim guardianship before heading down to the courthouse? Continue Reading