My mother has dementia and last year turned over her finances to my brother. My sister now wants a lot of money from Mom to buy a car.


Mom is fairly well off but over the years has given our sister thousands of dollars, helping her maintain a nice lifestyle. The new car is not a necessity but a luxury. My brother came to me asking what he should do. Our sister claims Mom offered the money to her some months ago.. but with Mom's dementia, there is no way to be sure. My brother is the Power of Attorney. What to do?

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Agree with Jeanne that you should try to estimate the number of months of care your mom's assets would provide and balance it against her age. I know the northeast is expensive, but live in care here cost me $500/month and that was two years ago. The Assisted living place for my mom (memory care) costs $7200/month and the nursing homes near me cost almost $12,000 month. Whoosh, the money is flying out the door. And there are lot's of extras from pull ups and wipes to meds, doctors visits and hair cuts. If somehow, your sister is winning the discussion, perhaps she would be willing to sign a legally drawn up document that the money is coming from her share of her future inheritance. This, of course assumes, that she is named in the will! Your brother's responsibility is to act as a fiduciary for your Mom's money. Giving your sister money for a new car doesn't come near meeting that description.

Your mom now has dementia and her life has changed. I think sister needs to change her lifestyle too. It's time to think about mama and if she can't, your brother needs to inform her that it isn't about "her" now, it's about mom.

As POA your brother has a responsibility to act on your mother's behalf in her best interest. If it weren't for the dementia, I'd say that if she had a history of giving this daughter money and she wanted to do it now, she should be allowed to do it. But the POA now needs to act on her behalf because she is no longer able to exercise good judgment and do this for herself. It is not simply a matter of needing someone else to balance her accounts and pay bills on time. She also needs someone to make decisions for her.

What does "fairly well off" translate into in terms of how many years she can afford of in-home care and possibly a dementia care unit. If she is 93 and she has at least 15 years of assets on hand maybe she can give out some gifts now and then. If she is 80 and she has money for 10 years worth of care, then it is very important to conserve her funds for her care.

And here is something else to consider. If it is even remotely possible she would need to apply for Medicaid within five years of giving assets away, there will be a penalty delaying when she would be eligible for Medicaid to pay for a care center.

If you are not familiar with costs, you and/or your brother might want to research what a nice dementia care center costs and what 24 hour in-home care costs, so you really have a sense of what "fairly well off" translates to regarding care for the rest of her life. That should help your brother fulfill his role in making good decisions for Mother.

Good luck to you all! Come back and let us know how this works out. We learn from each other.

If your sister does not need the car, I would say to use your mother's money for her care. Your brother is POA, so he has the power to make the decision that he feels is in your mother's best interest. Before deciding, he could consider all the "what ifs" that may occur, so that your mother will have enough for her care over the years. If your mother has Alzheimer's, she may ultimately need to live in a memory unit in a nursing facility, which can be very costly. Your brother's first consideration is what is in your mother's best interest. Since he (and you) know your mother's circumstances better than we do, you'll be able to make the best decision.

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