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ACT NO. 135

(S.224)

Reports of abuse, neglect; exploitation of elderly and disabled adults

This act has three primary objectives: (1) creating a new statute governing powers of attorney; (2) amending the laws designed to protect elderly and disabled adults from abuse, neglect, and exploitation; and (3) creating an Olmstead Advisory Commission.

The act establishes a comprehensive set of laws governing powers of attorney. All powers of attorney must be in writing, name one or more persons as agent, give the agent the power to act on behalf of the principal, be signed by the principal in the presence of a witness, and acknowledged before a notary public who is a person other than the witness. The agent must sign the power of attorney as well, and the agent may not serve as a witness or notary public with respect to the document. However, the requirements that the agent sign the document and that the witness and notary be different persons do not apply to powers of attorney involving real estate or commercial transactions if the duration of the power is no longer than 90 days. The act details the scope of authority created by a power of attorney, the duties of the agent, and the manner in which the power terminates. A durable power of attorney may be created if the document includes language showing that the principal intends the agent’s authority to be exercisable, notwithstanding the principal’s subsequent disability or incapacity. The act also permits the principal and the commissioner of aging and disabilities to file a petition in superior court for an accounting or a determination of rights and liabilities under the power of attorney, and authorizes an action for damages by a principal who is injured by an agent’s violation of the law or of the terms of the power of attorney.

Two significant changes are made to chapter 69 of Title 33, the chapter which contains laws protecting elderly and disabled adults from abuse, neglect, and exploitation. First, the phrase “elderly or disabled adult” is replaced by the term “vulnerable adult.” As a result, the chapter now protects “vulnerable adults,” who are defined as residents of psychiatric hospitals; persons who have an impaired ability to protect themselves due to a disability; and persons who have been receiving personal care services for more than one month from a home health agency certified by the department of health or from a person or organization that offers, provides, or arranges for personal care services. Second, the new law creates administrative penalties for violations of certain provisions of chapter 69, and gives persons aggrieved by an administrative determination the right to appeal to superior court and request a jury trial.

The Olmstead Advisory Commission is created to assist the secretary of human services with developing a statewide plan for deinstitutionalizing and placing into integrated, community settings, persons with disabilities.

Effective Date: July 1, 2002