A new law in Illinois took effect Friday granting critical protections to those, particularly older adults, who utilize the power of attorney.
Previously, those who abused their power of attorney roles as agents were not explicitly required to repay stolen or abused finances. The new measure also defines an agents role to act in good faith for the benifit of the principal estate in accordance with their preferences and expectations.
"A power of attorney is a responsibility that should be taken very seriously - it is not a license to steal," said Bob Gallo, state director for AARP Illinois. "Considering the broad authority granted in a power of attorney and the economic impact of financial abuse, it is critical that there are adequate protections in place for both the principal and the agent.
The agents must now keep financial records and are subject to having their agency revoked by the court or pay fines should they abuse their responsibility to the principal.
Financial exploitation in Illinois is the most commonly reported form of elder abuse, constituting nearly 60 percent of all elder abuse reports according to AARP Illinois.
Nationally, elder financial abuse costs victims more than $2.9 billion each year.
Public Act 96-1195 amends the existing Illinois Power of Attorney Act and was signed into law by Gov. Pat Quinn in July 2010. State representative Emily McAsey sponsored the measure, which unanimously passed in both houses in the General Assembly.