Can a nursing home sue an agent under a power of attorney for unpaid bills?

Hook Law News | Sep 9, 2021 | Emily A. Martin

If you are the agent under a power of attorney for a parent or loved one, you may often sign documents on their behalf. However, it is important to be careful what you sign – and how you sign it. If you are the agent under a power of attorney for someone who is moving into a nursing home or other long-term care facility, you will likely be given a large stack of paperwork to sign in order to admit them to the facility. Within that paperwork, you (on behalf of the resident) will be asked to agree to the facility’s fee schedule and agree that the resident will be held liable if they fail to make those payments.

One mistake that people often make is signing these papers in their own individual capacity, instead of as the agent for person for whom they are signing documents. When you are someone’s agent under a power of attorney, the best way to sign documents is as follows: [Principal’s Name] by [Agent’s Name], POA. This signals that you are signing the documents only in your capacity as Agent for the Principal – the person who signed the power of attorney – and not in your individual capacity. If the facility later attempts to sue or collect funds, they will only be able to collect assets from the resident of the facility and not from his or her Agent.

Another important consideration when acting as agent for someone under a power of attorney is that you have a fiduciary duty to the person whose assets and finances you are managing. This means that you are required to act in their best interests at all times. It is a violation of your fiduciary duty to commingle (mix) your funds with their funds, spend their funds for your own purposes, or otherwise mismanage the assets of someone for whom you are acting as agent. Failure to manage these assets properly can result in civil and even criminal penalties, so it is critical to make sure that you are managing assets properly and keeping detailed records of everything you do while serving as someone’s agent under a power of attorney.

If you are someone’s agent or if you have been named someone’s agent in their power of attorney, it is often a good idea to consult with an attorney about what your responsibilities are and how best to carry them out in order to avoid personal liability and legal headaches down the road.


Hook Law Center: Jolene, what can you tell us about the dog born with upside-down paws?

Jolene: This is an interesting story. A puppy named Siggi recently learned to walk after she underwent surgery to correct what looked like upside-down front paws.  Actually, Siggi was born with elbows that were out of joint, causing a severe rotation of the lower front limbs and making her appear to have upside-down paws. This condition often leaves dogs unable to walk. In Siggi’s case, she was in splints and cases for six weeks after her surgery. She is currently undergoing physical therapy to learn how to walk. Right now, she is using a ramp to get onto a chair and practicing “normal dog things” like chasing a ball across the yard. Siggi’s surgery is a source of hope for many other dogs who are born with her condition. 

Emily A. Martin

Attorney, Shareholder
757-399-7506 | 252-722-2890
[email protected]

Emily A. Martin is a Shareholder of Hook Law practicing in the areas of elder law, estate and trust administration, estate planning, asset protection planning, litigation and dispute resolution, guardianship and conservatorship, long-term care planning, special needs planning and financial planning. To date, Ms. Martin has overseen over 100 guardianship and conservatorship matters. In addition to being admitted to the Virginia State Bar and North Carolina State Bar, she is licensed to practice before the Department of Veterans Affairs. Ms. Martin is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and Virginia Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. She is a graduate of the University of Mary Washington and Regent University School of Law. Prior to joining the firm in 2018, Emily worked as an estate planning and elder law attorney in Virginia Beach for several years.

Practice Areas

  • Elder Law
  • Estate & Trust Administration
  • Estate Planning
  • Asset Protection Planning
  • Guardianship & Conservatorship
  • Long-Term Care Planning
  • Special Needs Planning
  • Financial Planning
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