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Can a nursing home sue an agent under a power of attorney for unpaid bills?

If you are the agent under a power of attorney for a parent or loved one, you may often sign documents on their behalf. However, it is important to be careful what you sign – and how you sign it. If you are the agent under a power of attorney for someone who is moving into a nursing home or other long-term care facility, you will likely be given a large stack of paperwork to sign in order to admit them to the facility. Within that paperwork, you (on behalf of the resident) will be asked to agree to the facility’s fee schedule and agree that the resident will be held liable if they fail to make those payments.

One mistake that people often make is signing these papers in their own individual capacity, instead of as the agent for person for whom they are signing documents. When you are someone’s agent under a power of attorney, the best way to sign documents is as follows: [Principal’s Name] by [Agent’s Name], POA. This signals that you are signing the documents only in your capacity as Agent for the Principal – the person who signed the power of attorney – and not in your individual capacity. If the facility later attempts to sue or collect funds, they will only be able to collect assets from the resident of the facility and not from his or her Agent.

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Another important consideration when acting as agent for someone under a power of attorney is that you have a fiduciary duty to the person whose assets and finances you are managing. This means that you are required to act in their best interests at all times. It is a violation of your fiduciary duty to commingle (mix) your funds with their funds, spend their funds for your own purposes, or otherwise mismanage the assets of someone for whom you are acting as agent. Failure to manage these assets properly can result in civil and even criminal penalties, so it is critical to make sure that you are managing assets properly and keeping detailed records of everything you do while serving as someone’s agent under a power of attorney.

If you are someone’s agent or if you have been named someone’s agent in their power of attorney, it is often a good idea to consult with an attorney about what your responsibilities are and how best to carry them out in order to avoid personal liability and legal headaches down the road.


ASK JOLENE

Hook Law Center: Jolene, what can you tell us about the dog born with upside-down paws?

Jolene: This is an interesting story. A puppy named Siggi recently learned to walk after she underwent surgery to correct what looked like upside-down front paws.  Actually, Siggi was born with elbows that were out of joint, causing a severe rotation of the lower front limbs and making her appear to have upside-down paws. This condition often leaves dogs unable to walk. In Siggi’s case, she was in splints and cases for six weeks after her surgery. She is currently undergoing physical therapy to learn how to walk. Right now, she is using a ramp to get onto a chair and practicing “normal dog things” like chasing a ball across the yard. Siggi’s surgery is a source of hope for many other dogs who are born with her condition. 

Posted in Senior Law News

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