A power of attorney gives one the capacity and legal authority to act on someone else’s behalf. This written authorization is usually granted for the management of financial affairs and is a common part of estate planning. In many situations, a power of attorney is necessary when a senior with declining mental capacity places someone else in charge of their property and wealth.

While these arrangements are relatively standard and usually have good results, sometimes, the person who is given power of attorney mismanages the property involved. Or, jealous family members will wrongly accuse the person of stealing, when they are legally and effectively exercising their power of attorney. In any event, abusing a power of attorney can expose one to both civil and criminal liability. If you are accused of taking advantage of a power of attorney, you could even pick up theft charges.

Accusations relating to stealing from a trust or someone’s estate are serious and need to be treated as such. In Philadelphia, Delaware, Montgomery, or Bucks County, Fienman Defense can help. Call us today at (215) 839-9529 for a free and confidential consultation.

Criminal Charges for Abusing a Power of Attorney

Depending on the circumstances, a prosecutor may bring one or several criminal charges against you. Often, the charges come after a civil trial that exposes the wrongdoing. This makes these cases extremely burdensome for the accused, who must defend themselves in two distinct legal battles. After a civil court orders you to pay back the money you allegedly took, you may find yourself looking at prison time and fines for:


Taking what is not legally yours is theft, and this charge is almost always filed in cases of abuse of power of attorney. If the amount you took is over $2,000 but less than $100,000, the offense is a third-degree felony under Pennsylvania law, punishable by three and a half to seven years in prison and fines of up to $15,000. For amounts over $100,00 but less than $500,000, theft becomes a second-degree felony involving five to ten years imprisonment and fines of up to $25,000.


When you lie, and you benefit from someone relying on your deception, you have committed fraud. Securing executed documents by deception is a type of fraud that frequently arises in power of attorney cases creating a power of attorney and transferring property involve the signing of documents. If you lie to get those documents signed, you could be charged with fraud.


In some cases, a person obtains a power of attorney or exercises those powers by forging documents. In Pennsylvania, forgery can occur even if you slightly alter a document without the proper authority. When the forgery involves a will, deed, or contract, the offense is a third-degree felony involving fines of up to $15,000 and three and a half to seven years in prison.

How a Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help

To be convicted of theft related to a power of attorney, the prosecutor must prove your criminal intent beyond a reasonable doubt. However, if you and your lawyer can show there is a reasonable possibility that no wrongdoing occurred or you simply made a mistake, you can avoid criminal liability. In the context of estate management, mistakes are common. Facing piles of paperwork, emotionally charged situations, and significant legal responsibilities, anyone can make an innocent error that could later be construed as an act of theft or fraud.

Contact Fienman Defense Right Away

If you have been charged with theft or fraud because you allegedly abused a power of attorney, you need to act fast to give your case the best chances of a positive resolution. You may want to try to explain yourself to your family or whoever is making accusations, but you should avoid the temptation. The more you say, the more evidence you may be giving the prosecution. Instead, exercise your right to remain silent, and retain a lawyer who will fight on your behalf.

Call Fienman Defense at (215) 839-9529 for a free consultation about defending yourself, your reputation and record against theft charges.

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