The Austin Court of Appeals upheld a sentence of 25 years given to a man who abused a power of attorney. The man was the former grandson-in-law of the elderly lady who gave him the power of attorney. Using the power, he transferred the title of her car to himself, cashed in a life insurance policy, deeded her house to himself and changed the locks. He left instructions with the nursing home where the elderly lady was staying not to let any of the other family members in.
The former grandson-in-law said that he wasn’t guilty because he had been advised by an attorney that he consulted on qualifying the lady for medicaid to “spend down” her assets to qualify her for medicaid. The attorney testified that he could basically spend the money, which would include some gifts and that those gifts would incur a penalty, making the lady eligible for Medicaid after the expiration of a penalty period. The court noted that the power of attorney did not give the former grandson-in-law the power to make gifts. The sentence was upheld.
The court relied on Texas authority relating to the powers conferred by a power of attorney (authority conferred by power of attorney will be strictly construed to exclude exercise of any power not warranted by document’s actual words or “as a necessary means of executing the authority with effect.”) Because the power of attorney did not authorize the former grandson-in-law to make gifts, especially to himself, he will spend the next 25 years in prison. 03-11-00498-CR.