Can I be held liable for the debt of my deceased mother even though I am not the Power of Attorney?
Under federal law, a nursing home facility must not require a third party guarantee of payment to the facility as a condition of admission or expedited admission, or continued stay in the facility. However, the facility may require an individual who has legal access to a resident's income or resources available to pay for facility care to sign a contract, without incurring personal financial liability, to provide facility payment from the resident's income or resources.
A power of attorney is a legal instrument that individuals create and sign that gives someone else the authority to make certain decisions and act for the signer. The person who has these powers is called an "agent" or "attorney-in-fact." The signer is the "principal." The principal must have mental capacity to make the power of attorney at the time of signing. A person who is unconscious cannot make a valid power of attorney. As a principal, if the principal's decisions conflict with those of the agent, the principal's decision will govern, assuming that the agent confers with the principal prior to taking an action. If an agent has acted on the principal's behalf and acted within the scope of authority granted by the power of attorney, then the principal may be obligated by the terms and conditions of his actions. The person designated to be the agent assumes certain responsibilities.
The agent is obligated to act in the principal's best interest. The agent must always follow the principal's directions. Agents are "fiduciaries," which means that the agent must act with the highest degree of good faith in behalf of their principals. The agent must keep his money separate from the principal's; keep detailed records concerning all transactions he engages in on the principal's behalf; not stand to profit by any transaction where the agent represents the principal's interests; and not make a gift or otherwise transfer any of the principal's money, personal property, or real estate to himself unless the power of attorney explicitly states he can do so. An agent who acts against the principal's interest for his own gain, or acts outside the authority granted in the power of attorney, may be held personally liable.
Various remedies may be available if a fiduciary duty was breached. Common actions for an abuse of a power of attorney, among others, include a petition for an accounting, claim of breach of fiduciary duty, theft, conversion, or a fraud charge. I am prohibited from giving a legal opinin, this service provides information of a general legal nautre. I suggest contacting a local attorney who can review the facts and documents involved.