I found out my four younger siblings got power of attorney over my mom behind my back. She never notified me, and I had no idea until two years later. The only sign was my mom growing more fearful of talking to me on the phone. Now she has full blown Alzheimer’s. They do not want to share the inheritance. They also have a scheme going where two of them have power of attorney in two different states that would probably make it hard to reverse. Can this be annulled? I was called contacted by phone by some state agency who wanted to know if I knew they did this.
She lived in North Carolina in her own home with one daughter and two sons. She was then taken to Virginia and secluded on a farm by another sister who appears to be using her money for her horse farm. I am unable to see or talk to her now. My mom provided a tiny home for one mentally ill sister. After they moved my mom, they evicted my sister and sold the house. She is now homeless. I used to talk to mom 2 to 3 times a month, but was unable to see her in person. The last time I saw her was 2006. Alaska is a long way from North Carolina.
Please email this old woman an answer.
There’s a lot you can do. It does not look like you are dealing with a group of criminal masterminds. There’s something very fishy here. Typically, the power of attorney can name two trusted friends or family members as her “attorneys-in-fact” or to act on her behalf. But it would be highly unusual to have four people doing so. As power of attorney, your siblings have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interest of your mother. “If an agent abuses his authority, there are serious consequences,” according to Parman & Easterday, a law firm in Oklahoma City. “The agent can be required by law to compensate heirs for money and property which was improperly removed from the estate.”
An attorney would very likely take on your case for a small fee or even agree to do this on a contingency basis and take his or her fee when you receive your inheritance. Or, as members of this column’s Facebook Group point out, you may qualify for free legal aid. You can petition the state district court in the county where your mother lives to nominate yourself as power of attorney (or as executor, if a will was filed). This will challenge the existing power of attorney. Submit a discovery request and a hearing will likely be set. Given that your mother was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, you have a strong case for undue influence or elder abuse, normally very difficult to prove.
If your mother passed away and left a will — assuming your siblings encouraged her to sign one — you would have to be explicitly mentioned in that will as a child who was pointedly disinherited. You are a legal heir, after all. Otherwise, a lawyer could argue that your mother simply neglected to mention you by name. Your mother’s property would have to go through probate and your siblings would have to provide documentation to show they haven’t emptied your mother’s accounts. As I told this man who was in a similar position to you, it is far more expensive to defend such an action than it would be for you to take the required steps to challenge them.
Your family may feel resentful that they took care of your mother and, therefore, should split her estate four ways instead of five ways. Whatever your family history and the resentments and recriminations that have clearly built up over the years, I don’t believe they have the right to disinherit you by coercing your mother into signing over her estate or power of attorney, however long it has been since you saw her. Unfortunately, when elderly relatives are dependent on certain family members, they do feel scared and under orders to do as they are told. This is a situation where there are no winners. Not you. Not your siblings. And not your mother.
Whether you last saw your mother in 2006 or 2016, the estate should be split five ways. I don’t know how difficult your siblings may or may not have made it to see your mother. That’s between you and them. There is one question that does concern me: Are they acting in accordance with your mother’s wishes? If you decide to hire an attorney, that would be up to them to prove.
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Hello there, MarketWatchers. Check out the Moneyologist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas: inheritance, wills, divorce, tipping, gifting. I often talk to lawyers, accountants, financial advisers and other experts, in addition to offering my own thoughts. I receive more letters than I could ever answer, so I’ll be bringing all of that guidance — including some you might not see in these columns — to this group. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyologist columns.