My mother's situation (very poor short-term memory, struggling to take care of herself and the house, cutting off contact with neighbors and friends) have us greatly concerned for her. She is resisting our help to set-up visiting care, to get her rides so she stops driving, etc. We reached out to the legal firm that my parents have done all of their legal work with for 25 years to start the process of getting POA and updating her estate documents. Initially, they worked with us, but in the most recent phone call they were noticeably uncooperative and terse. Today, we received an email saying they were no loner working with us, and we should seek another attorney or firm. Is this a common occurrence? Could it be that they have seen these situations become contentious and they cannot represent both sides?

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The law firm works for your mother, not you. That may be what's going on her, because true or not, you may appear to be coercing your mother into making legal decisions. That, or there aren't enough billable hours for the job you want done.

When my folks set up their estate documents I went with my dad to meet the attorney. (Mom was in the hospital at the time.) He insisted of meeting with my dad alone, and he really grilled him on whether my brother and I were coercing him to do these things. My dad made all the POA and trustee decisions himself, but he and I discussed them outside the lawyer's office because he was appointing me to all those roles.

We (my brother and I) never heard another thing from the attorney until I called him to tell him my dad was dying. By this point, the attorney knew I was the POA and Successor Trustee, so he came to my parents' house and worked with the three of us to have my parents resign from the trust and let me take over. I had to sign a document, though, acknowledging that I understood he was serving as my parents' attorney and mine separately. He really crossed his Ts and dotted his Is on the details.

You may need to get guardianship for your mother rather than updating her docs, as an attorney may not consider her to be competent to understand what she's signing. My mother wasn't really competent to resign from the family trust, but my dad was, and the attorney felt comfortable than no one was attempting to take advantage of Mom.

I think those attorneys are being a little weak in just backing out of handling your mom's affairs without specifying why, but they are within their rights to do so.
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Reply to MJ1929
AlvaDeer Jun 17, 2021
So absolutely correct, MJ. when my brother was diagnosed with probable early Lewy's Dementia, due to symptoms he was having, and was still very rational, he asked me to take over as Trustee of his Trust, and POA on his accounts, to take over his bill paying when he went into ALF, to assist with selling his home, etc. When we went to his Lawyer to have all the POA and Trust work done that Lawyer put us both through the ringer and spoke with him also alone. At the end he said "one last thing, I need to tell you, you had better assure me your trust this Sister with everything you have, because as this document stands she can sell the gold out of your teeth". We all laughed, but if there had been a single doubt in his mind that attorney would never have continued with this work, and rightly so.
I wish all attorneys were this honest and not just looking out to make a fast buck.

If your Mom has any memory problems she shouldn’t be signing any contracts which is basically what a POA is. I commend this lawyer for being so upfront
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Reply to Jada824

It too late for a POA. Mom has to be of sound mind to assign you. Since it seems she never assigned you, the lawyers cannot allow you to become her POA now or change any of her documents. Even with guardianship you cannot make changes in documents she set up prior to her Dementia. It just going to give you the ability to pay her bills and place her if needed. You will be required by the State to provide an annual report concerning her finances and well being.
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Reply to JoAnn29
ToBeHelpful Jun 24, 2021

Laws vary state to state, but, at least in New York, it is NOT NECESSARILY TRUE that "you cannot make changes in documents she set up prior to her Dementia."

I'll share my predicament by way of example. My mother is developing dementia, but prior to the dementia, she has a history going back more than 40 years of dubious mental health and exceedingly poor judgment. Sadly, her case is not all that unusual: she has a delusional romantic fantasy about former boss whom she felt was just the cat's meow!

My mother made financial decisions based on the belief that this man (whom she hadn't had contact with in 40 years) had sent her messages through the Editorial page of the NY Times newspaper. She documented her decision in a thank you letter to him. I have copies of the letter.

There is a legal term for the correction/rewriting of legal documents by a conservator/guardian when the person lacked full capacity, which I believe my lawyer called "conversion" (not sure).

There is also the opportunity to contest a financial instrument, such as a "Transfer on Death Deed," after the person dies.

Key is, laws vary state to state, so it really pays to research the law for one's state.

Best of luck to all.
There may be a conflict of interest issue; that would be my best guess.
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Reply to Taarna

The legal firm represented the interest of your parents. They may feel that what the family is requesting is inconsistent with the interest of their clients - your mother . It is not uncommon for conflicts to arise and for lawyers to have withdraw. From representing both sides. Sounds like they are saying - indirectly -- we represent the interest of your mother-- you need to fine your own representation
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Reply to MsRandall

I can easily see this happening, and it would seem to me that if there was any sense of disagreement that impacted on the original client, it would be a conflict of interest to attempt to function with both parties.
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Reply to AnnReid

" start the process of getting POA and updating her estate documents."

This statement implies that there was no POA in place, but perhaps some other legal documents existed, such as a will and maybe a trust or other financial holding, and updates were deemed necessary.

There does come a time when dementia puts a stop to their capability to sign legal documents. We had taken our mother to an EC atty to set things up for her when dad was having difficulty. The atty did wills, POAs, HIPPA and set up a trust to protect some assets. He managed to get her through the care and NH/Medicaid for dad.

When dementia came calling years later, we had to revisit the atty. In order to set up a new trust (irrevocable) and Life Estate for her condo (I don't recommend this unless you know the person can live there until the end or close to it!), he took her aside and questioned her to ensure she was still capable enough to sign the legal paperwork. She was only in the early stages, so she passed his test. They *must* ensure the person is still considered sufficiently competent before assigning anyone as POA, writing new documents or making changes to existing ones. If not, it can all be contested by someone later. They do have to ensure everything is legal and the person is capable of making these decisions.

It is possible she didn't pass muster, or perhaps during a call she refused to proceed or was incapable of understanding what they wanted. If this is the case, the only other option for taking charge of her affairs would be to apply for guardianship/conservatorship. Since they've abruptly cut you off, you'll likely have to find another atty to handle that. Because they were your parents' legal representatives, it's probably best they have also declined to do any additional work, as it could present conflict of interest.

One thing you CAN do that does not require any legal assistance is to apply to be Rep Payee for her SS. NO legal help needed. Contact the local SS office to make an appt and apply. It may be done by phone for now (virus), but I went WITHOUT my mother, answered their questions and provided my SS and ID. They will send notice to you and your mother indicating you have applied - gives the person the opportunity to decline (safety for the person.)

Once you are approved, this gives you the ability to manage her SS and Medicare. The first Rep payment will come as a check. You take the approval letter and set up a special Rep Payee account, then call the local office to provide the routing and acct # to have electronic payments done. Only you can access the acct and only her SS should be in that acct.

In order to work with other bank accts and other financials, get medical information from doctors, etc, you will need guardianship/conservatorship. If she's deemed beyond capability to sign legal documents, this is the only option. Any legal documents that existed before will have to remain as is.

A good EC atty can guide you. Many offer a limited free consult, so check around, try several to get answers and estimates. Guardianship takes time and isn't cheap! However, in the end, it does give you MORE power than a POA does.
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Reply to disgustedtoo

Thank each of you for the insights and advise. I will share this with among the siblings and we will have to determine the course of action.
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Reply to chossois

It appears you are trying to work with your parent's attorney that they had relationship with, Why? And, it sounds like your mother is not in favor of what you are trying to do, so yes, I can see this a conflict since your parents are or were the clients not you, and they might not want to work against mother who is "resisting" .

You will be challenged if mother is her own person and not in need if your help, so you cannot simply push your will. Unsure what all requires this attention, however unless harm to self or others, your mother has the right to "resist" your telling her what to do. Be careful sounds like you are heading down a poor chain if events and she has the right to appoint someone other than you, this can obvious set up lack of trust that you are taking away her rights. The legal business of course tire of family squabbles which really look like family taking what they have not earned, and I am sure they could tell this was the deal here. It is a business, of course they have the right to not serve you. You are not their client. I wonder if they will represent your mother? Please think before pushing your Will. Just because we age does not mean we want to be told what to do. I think more Geriatrics have problems with their family than most realize, having more assets do not help with creating warm relationship, validate her, and not push.

Remember you are showing someone how to treat you one day, if you are lucky, how would you like being didmissed and trying to demand change.?

your turn will come if you are botn.relatiinships
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Reply to Allye1
JoAnn29 Jun 21, 2021
It says the woman is showing signs of Dementia.
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Unless your mother is declared incompetent, a POA cannot be used to force her to do something she doesn't want to do -- even if the something is decidedly in her best interest.
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Reply to MsRandall

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