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The Danger of Power's of Attorney

Posted by Cindy Villanella | May 15, 2013 | 0 Comments

While very useful documents, General Power's of Attorney grant a large amount of power to the agent.  They have the power to act for you in any circumstance, without having to show why you are unavailable to be there for yourself.  The article below evidences the danger of these documents and what can happen even when you trust someone.  

91-Year-Old Man Raises Money to Prevent Eviction by Daughter

By SUSANNA KIM | Good Morning America

A 91-year-old man wants to stop his daughter from evicting him from the home he built 56 years ago in Zaleski, Ohio, a small community south of Columbus.

In 2004, John Potter and his wife, who has since died, gave the general power of attorney to his daughter for future matters if they declined in health, including to take care of her autistic adult brother, now 63.  But unbeknownst to Potter, his daughter Janice Cottrill eventually used that power to convey the deed to the one-story home to herself.

In 2010, Potter said he learned of the deed transfer and switched power of attorney to his granddaughter, Jaclyn Fraley, now 35.  Potter, a World War II veteran and retired train dispatcher for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, sued to get the home back, arguing that his daughter had transferred the deed to herself illegally because those with the power of attorney are not permitted to transfer assets to themselves from the estate they oversee.  Potter won in Vinton County Court, but an appeals court ruled last year that the statute of limitations of four years had passed on the accusation of fraud and thus the deed could not be handed back to Potter.  

Early this year, his daughter and her husband sent Potter an eviction notice, saying they had terminated his "existing lease." An eviction hearing will take place on June 12, during which the judge will have no choice but to evict Potter, Fraley told ABC News.  

When asked how he feels about being evicted by his daughter and son-in-law, Potter was at a loss for words.  "I just cannot believe my daughter would ever do anything like that to me," he said.

Janice Cottrill declined to comment.

"The case is currently pending in the Vinton County Court and we will let the court decide the issues," said Lorene Johnston, an attorney for Cottrill.

Fraley, a nurse who moved to Columbus, Ohio, from San Diego to be closer to her grandfather, said she has not been on pleasant terms with her mother and stepfather for the last two years or so, when she learned that they had tried to place her grandfather in a nursing home, she said.  Hoping to keep her grandfather in the home he built, Fraley started a campaign on GoFundMe.com, a crowd-fundraising site.

About the fundraiser, Potter said he is "a little bit embarrassed that I have to ask my fellow man for help" but he is grateful for others' generosity and thinks it is "wonderful."

While the home is not for sale, Fraley said other family members have told her and her attorney that her mother would allow him to stay in the home if enough money could be raised to buy it.  Fraley said she is planning to get an appraisal on the home, but so far, she has raised $42,134 from 1,781 people in the last month.

Potter, who mostly relies on his pension for income, is not paying rent to his daughter, said Timothy Gleeson, his attorney. Gleeson said Potter hasn't been in a position to make an offer on the home yet because they do not yet have the money.  

When asked if the funds could go toward rent on his home, Fraley said that is not a long-term solution that ensures her grandfather will stay in the home permanently.  "What would stop them from turning around and evicting him again?" she said of her mother and stepfather.

Another reason Potter and his attorney believe Cottrill would sell the home is she began selling parcels – about 14 acres in total -- from a hunting property Potter had owned a few miles away from his home last year.  

In trying to keep her grandfather in her home, Fraley said she is not motivated by anger toward her mother, but tries to focus on her love for her grandfather.  "People have commented that my mother is 'evil', but I always say she's a human too," she said.

Fraley said she hopes people will donate to her grandfather's GoFundMe site so he can stay in the home for the rest of his life.  Potter turns 92 on May 23, and Fraley said she hopes she can give his home to him for his birthday.  "That's his home. Do I think she deserves the money?" she said of her mother. "No, but my grandfather deserves to stay in his home as long as he possibly can. If he wants to leave, it should be his decision."

About the Author

Cindy Villanella

Cindy Villanella, Esq. has been with Carrucoli And Associates since 2008. Her practice focuses on all aspects of family law, estate planning and real estate law.

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