In my view, a lot of public education is necessary to help all of us spot and deal with individuals who are abusing powers of attorney. Let's face it, most of us aren't sure what someone is allowed to do under a power of attorney so it isn't easy to know whether they are acting improperly. But assuming we are pretty sure there really was wrongdoing, what happens next? This question was recently asked me by a reader:
"Is it possible to report a suspected theft by power of attorney after the grantor has deceased? It appears that the value of the estate has been lessened by this suspected theft. Also, how does one report a suspected theft by power of attorney?"
Theft by someone acting under a power of attorney is a crime under section 331 of Canada's Criminal Code (click the link here and scroll down if you want to read it). Therefore, you report it like any other crime by calling the police. Yes, that does seem harsh when the perpetrator is a family member or friend, but stealing from someone he's supposed to protect is harsh too.
Before calling the police, try to make sure you have the facts, at least as many as are available to you. Talking to the attorney to find out his side of the story would be a good idea. An attorney who willingly answers questions and shows you the books of account might be able to clear up your suspicions. And wouldn't it be nice if only more attorneys actually WERE willing to tell others what's going on instead of becoming hostile every time someone asks a question?
Be aware that there are other reasons why the value of an estate could be lower than you thought it should be, such as a weak stock market, falling real estate prices, or debts that weren't known about by the family. This doesn't mean you have to be able to prove it completely on your own, after all the police will investigate after you make your complaint, but you should have something solid to go on.
Yes, you can report a theft after the grantor has passed away. If you're the executor of the estate and you believe money is missing because of the attorney's intentional actions, you are required by your duty to the estate to find out what happened. If that means calling the police, so be it.