Margaret Van Houten, Davis, Brown, Koehn, Shors & Roberts, P.C.

A recent criminal case, State of Iowa v. Rodney Lee Bean, Court of Appeals of Iowa, No. 3-494/11-1828 (September 5, 2013), shows us how elderly individuals can be easily abused, both physically and financially. In this case, an individual’s conviction for involuntary manslaughter, two counts of second-degree theft, neglect of a dependent person, and two counts of dependent adult abuse was affirmed.

The Defendant, Mr. Bean, rented farm property from Joye Gentzler and her brother, William Robuck in Washington County, Iowa. Neither Ms. Gentzler nor Mr. Robuck had children or other close relatives. Mr. Robuck died in late 2006. After his death, Mr. Bean moved Ms. Gentzler out of her home and into his home. After that time, Ms. Gentzler received no medical attention, even though she had been previously prescribed medication for high-blood pressure, osteoporosis, gastric reflux and arthritis. Ms. Gentzler died on February 27, 2008. Between late 2006 and her death a bit more than a year later, while Ms. Gentzler was under the care of Mr. and Mrs. Bean, her weight went from 134 pounds to 74 pounds at the time of her death. She died of malnutrition and dehydration. Her right arm had been broken, but had never been set. She had suffered from broken ribs and bruising. The pathologist for the state testified that she died as a result of homicide because Mrs. Gentzler’s medical and nutritional needs had not been met.

In addition to this terrible physical and mental abuse, Mr. Bean not only acted as power of attorney for both Mr. Robuck and Ms. Gentzler, but was alsothe primary beneficiary of their will and purchased property from them on contract, at a bargain sale. Payments on the contract were not paid as scheduled, and when a payment in satisfaction of the contract was made, Mr. Bean immediately wrote checks back to himself and his wife in the same amount as what he had paid on the contract. Acting under the power of attorney, Mr. Bean also used Ms. Gentzler’s accounts to pay for his own expenses.

The Court of Appeals affirmed Mr. Bean’s conviction for involuntary manslaughter, two counts of second-degree theft, neglect of a dependent person, and two counts of dependent adult abuse. Mr. Bean’s sentence on the various convictions added up to 17years of prison.

Currently, when a person executes certain duties under a financial power of attorney for another individual, the courts have a very limited ability to review those actions. The 2014 Iowa legislature will be dealing with several proposals, including the proposal for passage of the Iowa Uniform Power of Attorney Act, which is expected to be part of the Iowa State Bar Association’s 2014 legislative proposals. Other organizations, such as the Iowa Academy of Trust and Estate Counsel, Iowa Legal Aid, the Iowa Trust Association, AARP, and others have been active in pursuing passage of this comprehensive legislation to give statutory guidance to those acting under of a power of attorney, and to implement a way to review the actions of someone acting as agent who may be exceeding his or her authority.

Although no protective laws can guarantee an individual’s protection from all abuse such as that Ms. Gentzler suffered at the hands of Mr. Bean, this proposed legislation is a way to provide some review and oversight to the actions of a representative appointed under a power of attorney. By providing such a review process, representatives who overstep their boundaries, such as Mr. Bean, can be prevented from committing long-term abuse to the persons they represent.