NAELA Praises John Oliver’s Coverage of Guardianship; Here’s How to Protect Yourself

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Preparing the proper documentation today can help prevent financial abuse tomorrow.

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The focus is often on aging, but the truth is someone can lose capacity due to an injury or chronic illness at any age.

As many people saw on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, abuses by guardians and other fiduciaries does sadly occur. There are steps everyone can take to avoid something like this happening to them. Most important is preparing a power of attorney that designates someone you trust to look after you and your affairs in the event of incapacity. “The focus is often on aging, but the truth is someone can lose capacity due to an injury or chronic illness at any age,” said NAELA President and Fellow Michael J. Amoruso, Esq., CAP.

Where to Go for Help
While forms for powers of attorney are widely available, an elder law attorney should be consulted prior to executing documents that give access to one’s financial and medical affairs to another person. For example, many states provide sample forms (particularly health care powers of attorney) as part of their statutes. Many are limited in purpose and scope. Unfortunately, the sufficiency of power of attorney forms is usually tested only after it is too late to make necessary revisions.

The advice of a qualified elder law attorney is important to protect the rights and welfare of the principal who wishes to sign a medical or financial power of attorney. Elder law attorneys usually have particular experience in drafting and enforcing powers of attorney. The agent under a power of attorney may also need legal advice or representation. Sometimes, interpretation or enforcement of a power of attorney (or recovery against an agent who has acted improperly) may require court proceedings and representation by an experienced elder law attorney. In choosing an attorney to prepare, defend, or enforce a power of attorney, be sure to ask whether he or she has experience in such matters.

New Uniform Law Would Address Instances of Abuse
Recently, NAELA members were involved in drafting the Uniform Guardianship, Conservatorship, and other Protective Arrangements Act (UGCOPAA). This important new model legislation would address many of the issues raised in the segment.

Members of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) are attorneys who are experienced and trained in working with the legal problems of aging Americans and individuals of all ages with disabilities. Upon joining, NAELA member attorneys agree to adhere to the NAELA Aspirational Standards. Established in 1987, NAELA is a non-profit association that assists lawyers, bar organizations, and others. The mission of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys is educate, inspire, serve, and provide community to attorneys with practices in elder and special needs law. NAELA currently has members across the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom. For more information, visit

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Abby Matienzo
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