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New York Power of Attorney Disputes Frequently Asked Questions

Some of the most common questions surrounding powers of attorney, only emerge after an issue has happened in which a person who had power of attorney took liberties with the decision-making authority that he or she was enabled with. This can lead other beneficiaries to file a lawsuit for damages or to pursue other legal action.

Q. Can criminal court get involved?

An agent of an estate has a responsibility of trust and loyalty to the principal. Crimes such as embezzlement, larceny and fraud may apply and these criminal charges require a higher burden of proof than civil claims. Although they are more difficult to win, if you have initiated a civil claim against someone who has engaged in this behavior, you may also find that they are facing criminal charges.

Q. What is inheritance high jacking?

Beneficiaries of assets tied to a deceased person may identify that an agent misused the power of attorney before the person passed away, such as moving assets from the principal's name to their own. This can be referred to as inheritance high jacking. Beneficiaries might not learn of this misuse unless the principal passes away and the estate's assets are now missing. Disputes associated with the misappropriation of the decedent's assets are managed in probate court.

Q. What legal remedies am I entitled to when disputing a power of attorney of the deceased?

If you have been injured because of the mismanagement of someone's power of attorney that led to financially inappropriate behavior or criminal violations, an injured person can start a civil petition for the agent to return the misappropriated assets back to a decedent’s estate. The majority of the claims include interest, money, legal fees as well as court costs, and this falls under civil remedies. Criminal courts are not the place to pursue the collection of money for injured parties, although they may impose their own jail sentences in defiance for inheritance high jacking.

Q. Can I pursue a power of attorney dispute if the principal was mentally incompetent at the time?

Just as a principal is enabled to grant power of attorney to anyone of their choosing, it is usually up to that same person to revoke the grant. If you want to override the principle's decision, you must give the court a good reason such as psychiatric issues, dementia, or some other type of mental incapacity.

Q. Can I file a power of attorney dispute if formalities were not followed?

Specific language required by state law, notarization requirements and witness signature requirements should all be followed to the letter when someone drafts a power of attorney. If you can illustrate that the agent enabled to take action was not truly authorized to do so under the terms of the law, this can form the basis of a dispute against the executor.

Q. What qualifies as abuse of authority by the agent?

Even if all of the boxes are properly checked and all of the legal terminology is accurate inside a power of attorney, this document could still be invalidated if an agent abuses his or her power. Some of the most common examples of abuse of power include neglecting the principal's needs, mismanaging the assets, or stealing from the principal's assets. An experienced lawyer will be able to explain to you what is involved in showing the evidence that a judge should invalidate a power of attorney document. Your attorney in this case may also help you to line up experts to determine the principal's mental competence at the time he or she drafted the power of attorney. In all of these situations an experienced estate administration dispute attorney is strongly recommended to advise you about your rights.

Filing a dispute in court because of disagreements over power of attorney issues is complicated, but the right lawyer can tell you whether or not you have grounds for such a case.

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