Should we seek guardianship? Are there other options? - AgingCare.com

Should we seek guardianship? Are there other options?

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Hello. My situation is as follows. My mother has advanced dementia, and my father has been her full time caretaker for years, despite my wishes that we find long term care for her for her safety. My father was diagnosed with advanced cancer this past December. I have one sister. Three weeks ago, I found out she has stolen my parents credit card on multiple occasions, and and has also taken $100,000 dollars from them over the last two years, between personal checks made out to her and her husband. They also got my dad to co-sign on their mortgage last year depsite me begging him not to. Sister promised she would get a job and then refinance the house to get his name off the loan, and they never happened. Now that he is a dying man, he still feels the need to take care of her, at the expense of my mother and truthfully of me. His wish is to gift his home to my sister so that her family can move in and become caregivers for them. He also wishes to divide up the substantial stocks my parents jointly own, and gift them away upon his death, even though my mom will still be alive. He's technically taking all her assets away from her, with the hopes that my sister will do the right thing and manage moms money and house well. I have no faith whatsoever that this will happen. What's worse, is that he has named my sister and I as joint POAs over him once he is incapacitated. My mother also has her paperwork that states POA will be passed to myself and my sister once dad can't fulfill his duties, and that we can work independently of each other. Mom requires 24/7 care and help with all ADLs. I also have reason to believe my sister is stealing my dad's pain meds. She screams at me when I bring up my concerns, that all I'm trying to do is hurt her because I'm mean. Everything in my gut tells me to go for guardianship of my mom and try to stop the absolute slaughter of her assets. But I fear that because my sister will have joint POA of my dad, that she can still ruin everything. I'm upset that I am being put in this situation at the end of my dad's life. I'm upset that I seem to be the only one thinking rationally about mom's assets. The way I see it, once my sister has the house and half the stocks, she can just throw mom to the wind, and the only one with the moral character to pick up the bill will be me, with what little I have. Not to mention, I don't think anyone is qualified to take care of her at home, especially my sister. Help advise please.

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Dear writer,

My heart goes out to you. For the past year, I’ve have been dealing with my 80-year-old father, a victim of financial elder abuse by a 30-year-old woman who is draining his life savings, including funds for his own care as he ages. It’s nothing short of absolutely devastating.

I can only speak from my experience but my recommendation is you consult with an elder abuse lawyer immediately. Educating yourself on your options is extremely important. Research financial elder abuse online and there are several resources I can share. You will learn it’s rampant in the USA and often committed by family members, including adult children. My brother will be petitioning for conservatorship this month (same as guardianship in California). He has not been diagnosed with an incapacity declaration since he won’t go to the doctor. If your mother has been medically diagnosed with dementia and deemed mentally incapacitated the likelihood of you being granted guardianship is high. If you have guardianship, it precedes POA rights of your sister, especially if she is accused of committing elder financial abuse.

The tricky part here is your father. When you say he is her “caretaker” is he also POA or an official guardian at this time? If he is and deemed mentally sound, you will have to contest his rights, though with his terminal diagnosis it may be a non-issue. In regards to his will, what you will also need to find out is his rights as a “competent” spouse to change their trust or will. In my case, my mother is deceased, but the way their will is structured is my father can only modify 50% of the estate in his will. All that said, he could spend it all or give it all away, just not change the will for 100% of the remaining assets.

Another thing to consider is your sister. There is the likelihood she may contest your petition for guardianship if you decide to go forward with it. My friend’s father had a very similar situation as yours and in the end he was granted guardianship, but his sister fought long and hard. Though if she was caught stealing credit cards she will have no clout and in fact she may face charges herself.

All this said, to answer your question, there are ways to help your mother besides guardianship.  I don't know the breadth of options, but you can contact Adult Protective Services, file complaints to AARP and other entities, and utilize mediators and try to work something out with your father and/or sister. Your sister sounds volitile, but  I can only assume the law is on your side.  An ideal situation is your sister may know this and stop her abuse if she hears you are consulting with a lawyer or intersted in a mediator.  Who can help you most with those decisions is a good lawyer who specializes in elder law, and even better, elder financial abuse.

One thing I will tell you is pursuing guardianship was one of the most difficult decisions of my life. It has not been easy and I expect it will get even harder in the months to come. Though I have my brother to support me, it was a battle to get him on board. What keeps me going is when I look back on my life, I need to know I tried everything in my power to stop the abuse and make sure my father is cared for as he ages. Even with all the evidence of my father being abused and that he is clearly subject to undue influence, I have to accept that the judge may decide I do not have the right to be a conservator; but at least I can walk away knowing I tried.

One thing stood out to me in what you wrote:

"Everything in my gut tells me to go for guardianship of my mom and try to stop the absolute slaughter of her assets".

I find with this stuff sometimes all you have is your convictions. Talk to a lawyer. Try not to get overwhelmed and take it day by day.

Feel free to contact me, I’d be happy to help and share my story.

Connie
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Reply to Daughterof80yo
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Stressed, please check back in and let us know how you make out. We care, and we all learn from each other!
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Reply to BarbBrooklyn
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thanks everyone.
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Reply to StressedM
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Yes, it is a mess.I don't have any experience of guardianship, but if you were to get it, I believe you would have control of the finances. The relationship between you dad and your sister sounds quite unhealthy. I would consult an elder lawyer with experience in these matters. Your parents have to be shown to not be able to manage their affairs for a guardianship to be granted. If there is sibling infighting, it may be given to someone else appointed by the courts.

Is there any way your mum/dad could or would change the POA to just you. Could you meet with a lawyer to advise him of what is happening and show him the proof you have, which is, in fact, elder financial abuse at least. Your parents might respect the advise of a professional. Your sis should be stopped from using your parent's money. I think you need legal help to pursue that.

You could also call APS re the misuse of funds and pain meds and ask your local Agency for Aging for advise. Good luck!

Re Barb's suggestion - I refused to be co POA with my sister as I knew it would be a dog's breakfast and in my plate. Mother capitulated and appointed me with my sis as second, if I could or would not do it. It was a risk but I was not prepared to work together with her.
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Reply to golden23
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Take your dad to see his certified eldercare attorney. Explain your version of what is going on. Leave the room after you've explained that you want no part of "caring" if your father gives away what is rightly MOM'S to sister.

Present proof of theft if you have it.

Let the lawyer explain to dad that mom will end up in a homeless shelter because Medicaid is not going to pay when assets have been gifted.
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Reply to BarbBrooklyn
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I can only suggest in starting with elder services and a lawyer who has experience working with elderly people.
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Reply to meallen
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What a mess! Please help.
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Reply to StressedM
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