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Friday, August 12, 2016

Markham woman dies penniless after son steals life savings

In June, David Klimitz was convicted of stealing his 90-year-old mother's life savings. He had been granted Power of Attorney by his mother, and he used it to steal everything she owned - about $500,000 - for his own use. He deliberately took steps to hide his activities, which took place over a 3-year period.

David's theft was revealed a few months after the money ran out, when his siblings discovered that their Mom was behind on payments to the care facility where she lived. There was $14 left in her account. David had left her nothing. The other kids took her in. An investigation was launched and David was busted.

The Mom - Royale Klimitz - passed away in 2014. Her children said that when she discovered what David had done, she was heartbroken. She was fearful about how she would live. Her other children believe that the stress and heartbreak of David's actions hastened her death.

To read the local news coverage from Markham, ON, including video statements by Royale Klimitz and her children, click here.

So here is where this very sad case stands now. Mrs. Klimitz had all of her money stolen by someone she trusted, and died heartbroken. The thief is headed to jail. His relationship with his family is destroyed. The rest of the siblings have been robbed of an inheritance. What a mess. I bet I'm not the only one hoping David gets several years in the slammer.

The possibility of this happening exists with everyone who makes an Enduring Power of Attorney. Appointing someone is a leap of faith and few parents would expect their own children to steal shamelessly and continuously from them as David Klimitz did.

In this particular case, the situation might have been different had Mrs. Klimitz included a clause in her Power of Attorney that required David to give a full, written report to his siblings each year. In many cases, the person stealing under a POA does so because they are pretty sure they are never going to be discovered. Sometimes just knowing that others have the right to see what they are doing will deter would-be thieves.

There would be nothing stopping David from presenting false records, of course. But perhaps his siblings would have found discrepancies that caused them to look more closely. Perhaps just getting something once a year would keep their Mom's finances front of mind and prompt one of them to ask for a bank statement.

Perhaps other arrangements would have been effective, such as having two people appointed instead of just one. However, Mrs. Klimitz probably saw no reason at all to do anything to protect herself from her own son.

I find it tough to persuade parents to put any protective measures into their Powers of Attorney, but I continue to try.  Nobody wants to believe their child would steal from them. Nobody even wants to think about it, and who can blame them? But I can help protect my clients from the occasional David Klimitz who pops up, if they'll only allow me to do so.

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