A state appeals court has upheld a ruling against two people who fraudulently claimed property from a man dying of cancer.
After being diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in December of 2016, Brent Roppe named his sister-in-law Jeannette Colbert-Roppe as his agent in financial power of attorney.
She later used this power to transfer ownership of Brent’s property in Birchwood to Jon Roppe, who is Jeanette’s husband and Brent’s brother.
Jeannette told Brent that he could tear up the POA document at “any time” and it “would be no good anymore.”
The POA was signed Jan. 6, 2017. Jeannette traveled from Arizona to visit Brent on Jan. 12. She left Jan. 17, but not before Brent said they had a “falling out” because Jeanette appeared “more concerned about her and her dog and stuff and where she was staying than his health.” Brent told her he was tearing up the POA on Jan. 16. He believed that action would be sufficient to revoke the POA.
On Feb. 1, 2017, Jeanette used her POA to transfer the property to Jon. Brent discovered this later in the month after speaking with his insurance agent, and became upset.
Brent testified, “I stated right from day one that [the Birchwood property] was supposed to go to my son, Ryan. Regardless if [Jeanette] is power of attorney or not.”
Jeanette and Jon provided as evidence a “contract” dated Jan. 3, which indicated that Brent had given consent to transfer the property to Jon. But Brent’s name was written on the contract, not signed, and Brent testified that he had never seen the contract before.
The Appeals court concluded that regardless of Brent’s signature or not, the “contract” did not grant any authority for the transfer of Brent’s property.
Brent died on June 12, 2017, and his Estate was substituted as plaintiff.
Washburn County Circuit Court ruled in April of 2018 that under the POA’s unambiguous terms, Jeanette did not have the authority to transfer the Birchwood property to Jon. The property was returned to the estate and awarded damages of $25,000 for Brent’s emotional distress before his death.
In the Appeal discussion, the court cited Article V of the POA, which states, “My Agent shall not exercise any of the powers for my Agent’s own benefit or in satisfaction of a legal obligation of my Agent, except and unless specifically provided for above.”
There is no other provision in the POA specifically authorizing Jeanette to transfer any of Brent’s assets to herself or Jon.
In the appeal, Jon and Jeanette also argued that expert testimony should have been required to support claim for the $25,000 in damages for Brent’s emotional distress. The Appeals Court disagreed, stating that lay experience and Brent’s own testimony was enough to conclude that he experienced emotional distress due to their actions.