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It seems that my oldest sibling is not concerned about our mom, but rather her house, money and insurance policies. What legal steps should I take?

Asked by  |  Jan 6, 2010

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Ralph Robbins, Jan 7, 2010

Ralph S. Robbins, CFP©, is a licensed Certified Financial Planning Practitioner and an Accredited VA Claims Agent specializing in Eldercare Financial Planning. He works everyday helping families in crisis find creative ways to fund long-term care expenses and deal with family financial issues.

 

Although it is certainly not all she should be concerned with, your sibling is correct in her worry about finances and the cost of a continuum of care for your mom (if that is her motivation).

Before running to an attorney which can get very expensive, take a look at the documents mom how has in place. The most important thing to look for will be a Durable Power of Attorney. This document allows your mom to give someone else the right to handle her affairs.

If she has not yet prepared such a document, and is still mentally competent, this will be the first order of business. Here is a tip: do not under any circumstances encourage her to name you AND a sibling as attorneys-in-fact. If you and you sibling have to agree on everything it will simply be an ongoing battle. She will have to choose one of you to handle her affairs in the event she is unable to.

If this is not done now then at some point one of you (or a third party) will have to go to court to obtain guardianship. You will regret it if this is the course of action you are compelled to take.

A look at her documents will also tell you who the owners and beneficiaries of life insurance policies are and if bank and/or brokerage accounts are titled solely in her name or joint with another and how the house is titled.

Once you have this information you can determine who is legally responsible for what, who has control of assets, and who can make decisions going forward.

 
 

Whitney

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Jun 27, 2013

I read Mr. Robbins post, where he states that only one sibling should have POA. What about if the sibling that gets the POA tries to take money for herself, (I have seen this happen). Aren't the finances more protected if all siblings are on the POA?

 
 

sarasmyle

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May 7, 2014

Now they know why there are people in nursing homes. All the above situations including mine, which is a rehash of all of yours, is stressing us, the true care-givers out. There will always be THAT one person who is just in it for the money. My brother actually asked me" well how long do you think mom haslive?" I know first hand that money can rip families to shreads. My sister is taking me to probate court because I am "keeping her" from seeing our mother. She hasn't called, or come by to see her in two years. She shows up in court though because mom has 2.4 million is assets. She wrote a Trust and coerced my mother into making herself the Trustee without my knowledge then tried to put a restraining order on me. Who does this to family over money? There is plenty for everyone I'm sure. She is the FPOA and won't show an accounting in 3 years, but didn't ask anyones permission when she spent 200,000.00 on rental house repairs and wrote checks out for 10,000.00 in cash.She cut mom off from support for' care, now I am just surviving on her SS benefits for her. That's abuse. She has spent close to 50,000 on attorneys out of moms money. I am pro se in court. Mom does not want to live with her, or go to assited living. My parents left me the executrix on their Wills. So don't feel bad people. Love your parents, and enjoy them. You can't take the money with you......

 
 

SecretSister

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Jan 6, 2010

Have you considered talking to an Elder Law Attorney? Can you ask people you know for a referral to a reputable one? What you do depends upon many factors. If your mom or her estate need to be protected, it may be a good idea to call soon. Ask for a consultation, taking with you a list of her assets and your questions and concerns. Have you communicated with your oldest sibling about this? What does/do the other sibling(s) say?

 
 

JJCK57

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Mar 2, 2013

My Father named my eldest brother POA several years ago. About 2 years ago he started having slight dementia. Up until this time he lived with his girlfriend for around 28 some years and had financials worked out with her to his satisfaction. When the dementia started my brother and older sister decided to look into his finances and came to a conclusion that Dad should not be contributing to her welfare, which he competently already had been doing for years. It was his wish to take care of her. The POA was activated and they immediately convinced him to make my sister POH and together they took over his finances and put a very small limit on is living expenses. In my opinion not enough for 1 person to live on let alone 2. This year in Dec. they both fell ill with the flew which ended in my Dad being hospitalized. My sister immediately jumped at the opportunity to activate POH and put him in an assisted living home using the excuse that his girlfriend could not take care of him, which I do not totally disagree. I strongly objected and wanted to get an apartment for the 2 of us to live in; however, both my sister and brother refused. They have since then, put a no visit order on his girlfriend, and have achieved what they set out to do. Destroy my Father's relationship with the one person that he truly loves. I honestly believe that they are not acting in his best interest but in they're own selfish interests which I really can not understand.
I have been living overseas and am returning to live back in the USA. My father would be living with my husband and me in our own home and have the support of my other 4 siblings and his grandkids.
I really don't want to get into a legal custody battle; however, I think that decisions are not being made in his best interest.
Does anyone have any suggestions of what to do?

 
 

frustrated2

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Apr 20, 2013

I believe if your father is only mildly affected by dementia he has the right to rescind POA at any time. Just because he gave it to them doesn't mean he can't take it away. And give it to you.
Whether or not he will do that, that's another issue. My MIL gave it to both my husband and my BIL. BIL lives in the same town and he bullies her relentlessly. She complained for years to my husband and then would come back and say something like "Well, maybe I was too sensitive" or "Maybe I could have done so and so differently". He would freeze her out for a couple of weeks, refuse to take her places, balance her check book or whatever and then she would either miss him or fear he couldn't make it without him. We offered to have to her move to our state, be close to us, take care of her, manage her finances, etc. but she was really afraid of his moods and whatever consequences she'd suffer at his hands. Finally my husband had to let it go. This has caused a terrible rift in the family that I am sure will never be resolved. We planned for retirement and can afford it, he is two years older and has admitted to my husband that he has not planned. To us, his motives are clear.
If you can get your dad to change this POA thing, you can take care of him and keep them away. Better act quickly before he loses his ability to decide. To a certain extent, there are no victims, just volunteers if the parent won't change anything that they are the only ones able to change. But I agree; your dad should be with this woman who is basically his 'wife'. I would see it as a moral responsibility that you have to your father, with no other choice about what to do. Once you tell yourself you have no choice, you HAVE to proceed and care for your dad. See a lawyer right away.

 
 

Beri24

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Jun 26, 2013

Iam,taken care of my mother ,for 12 years o more.She is physically handy cap .i practically do,everything for her.She is,89 years young,she is swett and very polite,I love her very much.she lives with her pension,and we help her,with the expenses.I not working outside of the house.this is my house. The problem I do have,are my sisters and brather.they do not helping ,at all. They are interesting in her money,and they are always visi,and never had time. Same time and want to go out,and have fun,but,my sibilant ,do not hep. My children,helping me a lot,a could not do this work along. I do the best a could. Would you please tell me if ,I am doing,same thing wron. Thank you very much,for your help. Beri

 
 

frustrated2

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Jun 27, 2013

This makes the little hairs on my neck stand up. My husband and his two year older brother are dual DPOA. My BIL flat out told my husband a couple of years ago that he 'has not prepared for his retirement' and that, when my husband was advocating for our getting their mom to live closer to us than the small town he and she have never left (and left her no good options for a NH while she should have plenty of money to spend a nice old age in) - and my husband said 'this is mom's money. I don't think of it as my money', my BIL retorted 'well, I do'.
He is seething with jealousy about everything we have - lives where we have, by virtue of jobs that have required a lot of relocation and jobs that have allowed us to travel and become more (he would say) 'sophisticated' - and looks down his nose at my husband, constantly trying to impose guilt for the fact that he is 'there', meaning where she lives and no matter what we try to add, all we ever get back is that we 'just don't get it'.
We talk to her almost every day. We would gladly have shouldered the 'burden' but he hoards all the information, checks, paperwork, everything. And he has stated his motive pretty clearly. I know for a fact that he has badmouthed my husband and me all over their small town I believe in an effort to create an atmosphere of distrust with local bankers, her doctors and the attorney there. My BIL is a guy who has a bad temper and has thrown basically tantrums with his mother in the past, keeping his distance and not visiting her in an effort to put her back under his thumb where he wants her if she questions anything. And I mean ANYTHING. I could go on and on, but my husband is the polar opposite type of person - very kind and forgiving and patient with her. It has broken our hearts to see him bully her but every time she has told us something that she doesn't like about what he has done or questions something when she smelled a rat, my husband has made an effort to talk to his brother and once again all hell breaks loose. She is now 93 and in hospice care at her NH with a very slow growing tumor that he doc says probably won't be the thing that kills her. Also constant UTI's, etc. She is mentally very sharp for the most part; just VERY tired and old. We talk to her and she sounds lucid; BIL will say how 'out of it' she is, 'loopy', etc. If we say that we didn't notice that he pull the old 'you don't understand/not here' thing.
Although both brothers have DPOA my husband has backed off and just says that whatever my BIL does, he is going to do. My MIL has a twenty something year old will and thinks that covers everything. In fact, BIL made her sell her home a few years ago and got rid of her things (told family - all of us - that if we wanted anything she had we would have to bid on it in the estate sale! And then when she asked how much they got he blasted her with the summary, which made her feel awful since her antiques and personal items in her mind were 'valuable'. He wanted nothing, just the cash). It's hard to watch what has happened to his mother but we have taken a sort of 'no victims just volunteers' attitude. It seems every time my husband has tried to help or to stand up for her, he is the one it gets turned around on and we have given up. BIL constantly changes passwords, etc. on bank statements that we are supposed to be able to access on the computer, doesn't update us on health info or otherwise about her (we get added to the 'general' email list if she has to go to the emergency room, etc, so we find out when the rest of the world does). Because my husband travels a lot for his work, BIL assumes we have tons of frequent flyer points and that we get 'free' hotels out the wazoo. We have gotten some of those perks and use them all the time for family (we have six kids and 7 grandchildren and I also have elderly family out of town). My husband travels the 2100 miles usually by flying (on our own dime) to go see his mother and even then, we are belittled because either he thinks it is no skin off out noses because he thinks we are 'rich' - we aren't - or he thinks it was free. If my husband asks 'is there anything I can do?" all BIL says is 'well, you can come see her'. It is never enough.
My husband frequently has told his mother that she should not have dual DPOA. Only ONE person should have that and he has said that if she wants that person to be his brother he is fine with that. SHE has always said 'No, no, no! I just want you two to get along!". She is of course in la la land. If anything has made this as contentious as can be it is the fact that they do have dual DPOA. Because a loving and responsible son, like my husband, when given that trust, feels the responsibility to do the right thing by his mother. But his hands are effectively tied and he says that a) he expects his brother to clean out the bank accounts the minute she passes away and b) that he will never speak to his brother again once his mother dies. His mother, unfortunately, has made this mess, both in her denial of reality (that is as old has the hills) and the very indulged way she raised my BIL (he is a type 1 diabetic and she babied him and made excuses for him all his life. I by the way also have a son who is type 1 and I KNOW how much a mother worries but I have raised a different type of person and actually HE is the one my husband and I have named to be our POA, executor, everything. So having this disease is not an excuse to be a jerk!).
What a mess.

 
 

frustrated2

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Jun 27, 2013

An addition to the above. Here is a real kicker! My BIL sells supplies to FUNERAL HOMES. Both parents had in their wills that they wanted direct cremation. He completely violated this wish, and had his father laid out and embalmed, with a whle different type of funeral than he'd been clear about. Can you say COMMISSION? Now that it is 7 years later and his mother's plans need to be made we have been attempting to get her wishes done. She told us she was very positive that she did NOT want what their dad/her husband had and we tried to talk to BIL about it. He hit the roof and told us that because he is a 'professional' (in the 'underground accoutrements' business! Ha!) that...get ready for this one!...(to my husband) 'you don't know how to grieve' and that this full blown funeral was the only way people could do that!!! Then he talked his mother into something she never wanted, telling her this baloney about how she would be harming those people who love her and needed to 'properly grieve'. And he has the checkbook, etc. so he will make sure it goes his way. He is just unbelievable. Also did I mention he is a 'pillar of his fundamentalist church'? We go to church as well (my husband was an Elder for four years) but this is one more, in my opinion, way for him to create the persona he is after for credibility so he can manipulate whatever he wants. I am so disgusted.

 
 

GraceH

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Jan 6, 2014

I have out of state siblings, and they never come to visit my parent. I live about 10 minutes away and am doing literally everything for my 93 y.o. parent. But I receive absolutely no compensation for what I do. My parent has done the "traditional" thing and given the DPOA to the oldest male child, who lives many hours away. It is a great source of friction, and I would advise anybody to NOT simply be "traditional", the best would be to have some checks and balance in the POA. there is no accountability in the way things are right now, I am scared stiff that my siblings will accuse me of spending our parent's money, or making off with some of their possessions, but I am not. God knows I am only interested in taking care of my parent! It is very difficult to be the one who lives close by, and does everything, and nobody else comes to visit......and when they do come for a visit (every few YEARS) they expect to be put up in a hotel, given money for food, plane tickets, it's unbelieveable how my siblings are so out of touch with Reality.

 
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