My sister-in-law went behind our backs and claimed Power of Attorney, removing my husband and I. What can we do? - AgingCare.com

My sister-in-law went behind our backs and claimed Power of Attorney, removing my husband and I. What can we do?

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My mother-in-law has dementia and has been in a nursing home for several years. My husband and I had durable POA jointly during this time. He made the decisions, but I was on it because I actually handled ALL of the day to day paperwork. We just received a notice from an attorney today that our POA had been terminated and my sister-in-law was now POA. She had mentioned that she wanted to talk to my husband about it a few weeks ago, but then just ignored his calls and went ahead with it on her own. She told me she wanted to be added to ours. Instead, she just kicked us off and made herself the sole POA. I have a few questions. First, I’m not even sure my MIL was mentally capable of making the decision to make a change. I would say her dementia is on the low-moderate range. She has declined several points recently on whatever scale they use to test it, according to her Social Worker. How would we know if she was mentally capable of making this decision, in a legal sense? Would we have to hire a lawyer and contest it in order to prove she is not, or is there someting that might already exist that would state it? The reason my SIL did this, is because my MIL wants to get out of the Nursing Home where she is currently residing and live in an apartment. It is obvious to us that she is not capable of it, even with whatever help she would get from the Medicaid home care waiver program in our state. My SIL has Multiple Sclerosis, and is very disabled herself. She spent all of last year in hospitals and nursing homes. Now, because of that, she lost the housing voucher she received from the state. She can no longer afford to pay her apartment rent, so we believe that she wants to move her mother out of the nursing home to live with her, so she has access to her Social Security check (which goes to the nursing home currently.) I’d appreciate any information or experiences anyone could share about this subject that might be helpful.

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Can you not have drs evaluate her for adequate competency to change her POA. That would be my first step. I read back some, but could not find if this had been suggested, Apologies if it already has been addressed. If she is judged not competent, the new POA is not valid.
Otherwise, I agree, take a hard line about not being the back up, and make the consequences of that very clear to the whole family. I refused to be POA if my sister was appointed as a co POA. It would have been a dog's breakfast and mostly on my plate. So I forced the issue that if I was POA it would have to be me alone. Sis is on in the event that I cannot or chose not to act any more and then she would be on her own. At times I have been tempted... Mother has lifelong mental illness too, and they are very enmeshed.
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97, I see you’ve read about some more of our recent troubles. I’m not sure that the last incident (which we are reasonably sure didn’t happen after investigating) didn’t create the urgency for my SIL to act in this situation. I’m pretty sure she still believes it did happen.

My husband’s other (older) sister is not happy about this either. Younger sister thinks she is the only one who looks after their mother, because they talk obsessively on the phone. In reality, the other 3 of us do a lot of stuff behind the scenes and under the radar. Younger sister has no idea it was older sister who looked out for her when she was in the hospital and almost died last year. Their mother created a toxic environment of mistrust growing up, and played the sisters especially off of each other in order to gain more sympathy for herself. Her mental illness makes her extremely afraid of abandonment, but she creates the exact kind of chaos that makes you want to run away. It’s only because older sister and my husband and I have done a lot of learning about this kind of mental illness, that we seriously haven’t already just cut off contact with younger sister and mother. Nobody is perfect, but I think we are genuinely caring people, and younger sister and mother have done a lot to vilify and smear us as uncaring and uninvolved. I give older sister a lot of credit, because she has been treated much worse by them. It’s difficult to just run away, when you understand they act the way they do because they are so damaged.

The reason younger sister is still able to do all that she does, is because their mother cultivated a “never say die” attitude when it came to her children’s responsibility to care for her. I think younger sister would be in much better shape, but she has neglected her own health to be at her mother’s beck and call (meaning, answering 10 or more phone calls a day.) Even when she was practically on a respirator last year, she still tried to keep up with it. It’s a sick and disordered relationship. Lots of Catholic guilt and martyrdom and all that. Younger sister does get a lot of help because of her MS. We are very glad she has help, but we wish she would focus on using that help to take better care of herself.

It’s difficult to know what to do. It’s not so easy to just walk away. Staying means conflict, but I wish everyone could just find a way to work together. Too much mistrust, and this whole thing with the POA doesn’t help with that.
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I agree with BarbB, especially about refusing to be secondary POA.
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I would bypass the Area Agency on Aging and contact the Social Worker at the N H and APS. You alert them to the fact that this would be an unsafe discharge, that husband no longer has POA and will not be responsible for Mil's safety; you tell APS that MIL will likely end up homeless and is a vulnerable adult about to be rendered such.

You also send motorized notification via mail to SIL, MIL and NH stating that you are not accepting the POA reverting to you if discharge takes place. Send it return receipt.
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You have a really tough problem.
DH has two women in his family in a vulnerable situation. Where does the 2nd Sister weigh in on this decision? Does she even know?
I can see that a DIY guardianship is not going to happen in time to stop SIL. State of NJ backlogged like 4000 applications. The NJ POA has to be notarized OR have two witnesses. And I read something about diminished capacity being ok. I think your MIL might get away with signing the POA for SIL to be her agent.
So the only thing I could think of is for you to call the Area Agency on Aging for the county where your MIL NH is located and see if there is someone you can discuss the issues with. Perhaps they might be able to set up a mediation for all concerned??
It’s too bad there have already been issues at this NH with MIL and SIL.
I wonder if the fact that SIL has had problems in other facilities will keep her from being able to find an apartment for the two of them? What then? Sigh. You guys have worked hard to take care of MIL.
Be sure to let us know how you resolve.
I don’t blame you for just wanting to wash your hands of the whole deal but I know that would be very hard as well. It’s amazing to me that SIL could pull this off in her condition. Is someone helping her?
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There is no way a person in memory care could be considered competent to sign a POA. At least I don't think so.
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Thanks, rwb! It helps to know others have had similar challenges. She was diagnosed with mild dementia a few years ago, but it has progressed since then. She is on a memory care floor in the nursing home, and has an alarm on her wheelchair because she has threatened to take off.
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I've recently learned the hard way never to underestimate the scheming of a mother desperate to get out of a nursing home.

I agree with those advising to confer with an Elder Law attorney. Has your MIL been medically diagnosed with dementia? Even if she has, it's still a tough battle to take legal measures. My heart goes out to you. The emotional roller coaster can be overwhelming at times. I won't try to advise, but will only say I have been personally shocked by some of the maneuvers my mother has turned to try to get out of assisted living.
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I am so sorry for this uproar and potential danger for your MIL and your SIL. You wrote: "the Attorney who drew up the document signed as witness and notary." Is that even legal? Definitely contact a lawyer. I can't help but wonder if a quick call to the state bar to find out if the lawyer acting as witness and notary is legal and ethical!  Best wishes to you all.
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Barb, my sister-in-las has the POA to revert to my husband if something happens to her. We’ve been on this ride many times before. They decide they’re going to handle things the way they want, and then there is some crisis where there is no food, or no heat, or somebody is about to be evicted, and they call us. I thought we had finally gotten this under control, and now here we are again.
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