Call 12 for Action

Son questions power of attorney after mother's bank account is drained

WEST WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) - Within a matter of days, Dorothy Jorgensen became a widow and lost more than $70,000 from the joint bank account she shared with her late husband.

Days before Jorgensen's husband died of cancer, he changed his power of attorney to one of his relatives. The relative withdrew everything but a few dollars. Eyewitness News is not naming the relative.

"When I went to pick up a prescription for my mother, there was insufficient funds to pick up a prescription," Dorothy's son, Gene Weston, said. "I can’t believe that someone would do that to an elderly woman."

The couple had been married for almost two decades and both contributed money to the account.

"My mother is still alive and my mother needs to continue living," Weston said.

Weston called the police because he believes there's no way the power of attorney document for his stepfather was legitimate.

"He was on morphine at the time," Weston recalled.

According to a West Warwick police report, detectives interviewed several people and found Jorgensen's husband was "only taking a minimal dose of meds."

Police concluded Jorgensen "acted with his own free will" and closed their criminal investigation.

Consumer attorney Chris Lefevbre says similar cases involving powers of attorney often wind up in civil court.

"When people make a change to a power of attorney shortly before their death,  that does raise some eyebrows," Lefevbre said, and noted it's important to carefully choose an agent and make sure the power of attorney is properly notarized.

"Designate someone that you trust, that you know will do the right thing for you in case you get to that point where you are unable to make your own decisions," Lefevbre cautioned.

It's also important to remember you can limit your power of attorney document.

"Most people want to make sure that all circumstances are covered," Lefevbre said. "But there are many  circumstances where you don’t need something as broad, that something more narrowly tailored would do the trick."

Call 12 for Action reached the relative who withdrew the money from Jorgensen's bank account. She said she was not willing to do an interview, but said she did nothing wrong.

Susan Campbell (scampbell@wpri.com) is the Call 12 for Action and Target 12 consumer investigator for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.


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