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My mom is currently in a short-term assisted living facility almost 1,000 miles away from where I live. She had surgery in early August which left her very weak and unable to walk by herself. Since then, her husband, my stepfather, passed away unexpectedly. His son lives in the area where my mom is currently living. After his dad passed, he got into his files and took all of the important paperwork about his father and my mother. He said he would provide me with my mother’s original paperwork or at least copies, but last time I went down for a visit he said on the last night I was there that he didn’t feel comfortable providing me with this paperwork without my mother's specific instructions which he could’ve easily asked for earlier in the day or earlier in the week.


Can I trust him? He currently holds all of my mother’s financial accounts, mail, will, as well as paperwork naming me as POA. He has access to my mothers lock box at the bank because his father’s name was on it as well, and he knows everyone in the small town where she lives. He is paying my Mom’s bills with her account, although I have offered on multiple occasions to help out.


How can I gain control of my mothers accounts and belongings so that I can ensure that she is properly taken care of and not taken advantage of by this person that I honestly don’t know very well. My stepfather’s will is in probate & I have no idea what it says. I feel lost & unable to protect my mother.

He definitely should NOT be able to access the lock box! My mom passed away, and my father’s name was ON the lock box WITH her. He went with the death certificate, their will, and the KEY and couldn’t get into the box without a court order! (It’s a two part process- step one is to petition court to get the bank to inventory the contents, then step 2 is to empty it) it takes a while!!! If he got into the box, someone didn’t follow the law. Btw- the court returned the original inventory request stating there is an issue with the way it was notarized, but didn’t elaborate, and when dad called they couldn’t give any more information. At this point, my dad gave up on getting into the lock box and told us when he’s dead it will be easier for us to open the box, and he probably doesn’t need anything in it!) For anyone out there - get rid of those ridiculous safe deposit boxes and just invest in a little wall mounted safe at home!!!
Get an elder attorney ASAP to meet with your mom and get her wishes... hopefully, your step brother is trustworthy and looking out for your mom’s best interest.
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Reply to Dadsakid
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Elegia Oct 23, 2018
It shouldn't have been that easy. Maybe because they live in a small town where everyone knows everyone else? He had no problem getting into the box, maybe because he is one of the executors of his Dad's will? He did mention that I wouldn't be able to even get back into the room where the box is though.

Sounds like I need to get an elder attorney though.
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Since it isn't his mother and you have POA, you have a right to the paperwork. See if ur County has a legal aide and see what ur rights are. As POA you shoukd have always had the original paperwork. If you remember the lawyer who drew up the paperwork, contact him and ask what it would cost to have a letter sent to require the son to hand over anything that belongs to your Mom. He is required, once he probates his Dads will, to inform you and Mom if u inherit or as interested parties. You may need to get a lawyer to protect Moms income. If Moms capable, she needs to request her paperwork. If he doesn't hand it over, then you'll need a lawyer.
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Gosh, difficult.

The paperwork naming you as POA seems to me to be the one most important point. You are sure it's there, are you? How come? If you were told about it, why were you not also given a copy?

It should be obvious, on what level can it NOT be obvious, that the principal is happy for the person she herself has given POA to see that paperwork. What conceivable scruple could your stepbrother have about handing this over?

Having said that, I wouldn't leap automatically to mistrust. Your stepbrother's excuse could be the result of disorganisation, or confusion about what he's meant to be doing and in what order; and given that if you don't know him very well then he can't know you very well either, it could also be that he does have some anxieties about what you might get up to. You both want reassuring.

Plus, he's just been unexpectedly bereaved. He's probably not at his best all round.

I should give him a friendly call. First ask how he's doing, and listen properly to the answer. Next ask if he has had a chance to go through your parents' papers (note, parents plural. Focus on this all being a joint enterprise). Explain that you are anxious to take up your mother's care, and that as she appointed you this is your responsibility, and therefore you require that document a.s.a.p. See how it goes, and make allowances for his situation, before you get heavy. And don't get into a dispute: if you're really not getting anywhere, your next step is legal advice.

Also. How do you plan to walk the walk and take over your mother's care adequately from 1000 miles away? Let's say you decide you're not happy for your stepbrother to stay involved. Then what? I suppose I'm saying that if you can't trust him your mother's in real trouble and you'd better have a plan.
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Elegia Oct 23, 2018
That is a good question. My Mom told me I am POA, as did the step-brother. He said he would get the paperwork to me... and then didn't. I don't know why.

You give good advice, and I have tried to approach with compassion as he just lost his father.

My plan is to bring my Mom to where I am. Depending on how she progresses in the rehab facility, I may need to modify my current house or move. I am also looking into short term care facilities near me in that case. My step-brother has a room for her on the first floor if she regains her ability to walk, but she has expressed a desire to live where I am living so I am here for her to make that happen. She currently is getting regular visits from friends in her area, but I know those visits tend to dwindle over time, and I don't want her to end up feeling completely alone.
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No bank should be honoring his involvement in your mom's accounts without a POA, whch he doesn't have. Contact your county Ombodsman, and an elder lawyer. Sounds like the stepson is up to no good. Once your stepfather's will is submitted for probate it is a matter of public record which you can get access to.
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Elegia Oct 23, 2018
I am researching how to get a copy of the will. Since it is a small town, I may need to go in person. It is likely that they had the same attorney draw up all of the paperwork, so I may be able to find out who to contact about the POA. Thanks!
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IF you are the POA, then why are you not taking FMLA and getting out there. Do you expect all of her paperwork will magically show up at your door? If mom is in a short term facility, how are her bills being paid? You are her POA. Based on my calculations, she will be in a long term case by November (nursing home care) . Her bills are soon to be $8000 to 10000 per month. Call mom's facility and speak to the financial manager and the social worker and ask about future costs. You need to see a lawyer. The son could be liquidating all assets. If they own a home together she is entitled to half plus you need to start handling any other income such as Social Security
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Elegia Oct 23, 2018
I can't afford to take FMLA because I do not live in California, Rhode Island, Washington, New Jersey, New York, or the District of Columbia where FMLA is paid. I already used my paid time off/vacation/sick to spend about a month with her when she was in the hospital after her husband died. I still need to pay my own mortgage & bills. My step-brother is paying the bills. My Mom is in her current facility until the end of the year, as long as she continues to progress.

I am hoping to move her to where I am located, she has expressed an interest in that. In the meantime, it sounds like I should get a lawyer.
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Sounds like your mom is still legally competent. She may need legal advice on how to proceed. Your POA for her may not even be active, depending on how it is written.

Can an attorney be hired to protect your mom's interests going forward? Her stepson's lack of transparency is worrisome. He should not have been allowed access to the safety deposit box. His father's death doesn't give him the right to access a safety deposit box. I would get your mom an advocate.
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Elegia Oct 23, 2018
She is still legally competent, but I want to be prepared if/when she is not. I also want to ensure that she is not taken advantage of in the meantime. She trusts her step-son, but people do strange things when their parents pass away. I was inclined to trust him as well, until his actions became different than his words.
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I would get a lawyer quick. Do u know who the lawyer is that made your mothers will? Is your mother able to tell you? There may be a copy if POA recorded at county courthouse too. If you are her POA I would most definitely get a lawyer or he could wipe out her accounts.
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Elegia Oct 23, 2018
I don't know the lawyer & it is my understanding that wills & POA don't have to be filed with the court until they are put into effect. I can ask my Mom, but she doesn't like to talk about these things. She only wants to talk about happy things. It's difficult to bring this type of thing up because she doesn't want to talk abut death. She won't even look at her husbands picture.
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Elegia I think what you say about the documents remaining with the parents is true, but I also think this is a good lesson to all of us that it's not necessarily the best plan! Perhaps we should note that at the time of creating POAs we should make sure that whoever has to do it gets their own advance copy :)
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Elegia Oct 25, 2018
I agree with this 100%. This has really gotten me thinking a lot.
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If your mom named you POA she should have given you at least a photocopy of the document, but maybe she didn't know that. Contact the lawyer who drew up the POA. Regardless of what you think he is up to good or bad you need a lawyer NOW. You must get one in the state where your mom is located. If you are POA then legal fees should be paid out of your mom's funds, since you are seeking legal advice to properly carry out your duties as POA. This fact will be stated in the POA. When you get it. READ IT. Keep in mind, a POA must keep proper records.
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Elegia Oct 23, 2018
Thank you. I never got a copy of anything. I was under the impression that you don't get a copy unless it's needed and then you go find the copy. I have spoken to others in my family, friends... all of them say that their parent's POA, wills, and other paperwork are in their parent's files. Doesn't make sense, but seems like the way it is done much of the time.
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Elegia; So if your mom is in a short term facility is her mind still working well ? If so get a lawyer near your mom and go to your mom... ASAP before he does ....any money your mom has shes going yo need to care for herself....UNLESS YOU TRUST YOUR STEP BROTHER,,Then just leave it alone but get to see your mother she needs you to feel out the new situation and you need to investigate the situation...this is the only way you can feel safe and be sure mom is safe ...my advice get out to spend a week or so with your mom then you'll know for sure whats going on. Sorry you are haveing such a stressful time of it send hugs to you!!Good Luck
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