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Sister thinks POA means OWNER
Old 02-16-2017, 04:29 PM   #1
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Sister thinks POA means OWNER

Seems like I've read my story before, many times. But I never thought it would happen in my family.

My sister has POA for my 91yo mother's estate. My deceased Dad always managed the family finances. Mom never learned anything about it, or even cared to think about money. She was pleased when my sister offered to step in and take over financial matters after Dad died.

After my sister took over, things went well for a while. But for the past 5 years or so she has kept all financial information about the estate to herself. She simply won't talk about it. The estate was valued at over $2M but I don't know what it's worth today. Every year I ask for an update but she says I'm too concerned about money and changes the subject. She's offended and shocked that I don't trust her.

My question is this, does having POA mean that other stakeholders have no legal access to information regarding the estate? My Mother can still communicate but she's sort of in a different world. My sister has written her off as being incompetent and so she won't even try to participate in any conversation on the subject. She wouldn't act on any request my Mom might make anyway.

So what can I do, just wait until estate settlement day to see how things went?

Something else that bothers me is my sister's concern for her children. She thinks I have all the money I'll ever need and that her children need it worse. She convinced Mom years ago to give each grand child the maximum tax free gift allowed each year (about $14k each). I'm starting to worry that my sister might "reasonably" take the next step and convince Mom to change her will to direct more to her children. This could happen and I won't know it until the estate settles, the way things are going.

We used to have a fairly close knit family but this issue is taking its toll. I've heard it's not so unusual but I never thought it would happen to us.

Anyway, I've read sound advice/insight from folks on this forum before so I thought I'd give it a try.

What do you think I can/should I do? Thanks for hanging on this far.
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Old 02-16-2017, 04:32 PM   #2
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I think you need a lawyer. Are there any other siblings?
Is your mom of sound mind? Can you talk to her?
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Old 02-16-2017, 05:13 PM   #3
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My MIL has dementia - and my husband is her guardian for all things financial and personal. (None of the siblings wanted to be "responsible".)

Guardianship has more responsibilities than POA... He has to file financial statements annually with the state. He always sends the same information to his five siblings so there is no room for accusations. It's pretty straightforward - shows the income coming in (small pension, SS, and RMDs) shows the outflow (to the memory unit, for prescriptions, and for sundries that BIL picks up for (eg depends, hand cream, etc... things that it's cheaper if we purchase and provide than if the home provides it.)

As far as I know - POA doesn't have any reporting requirements to the state or family...

Since your mother is in a 'different world' and your sister deems her incompetent she should be very careful about gifting her kids with mom's money - that seems like it would be sketchy, from a legal perspective.
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Old 02-16-2017, 05:24 PM   #4
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If your description is correct, I would be worried that your sister doesn't understand the meaning of fiduciary and if that is her attitude she would be a poor choice as your mother's executor.

Is it possible that she has diverted some of your Mom's money since you obviously have plenty?

I do similar work for my Mom and would gladly provide any of my siblings with such information if they asked and my mother agreed to share it... IMO, the fact that your sister refuses to share information is suspicious.

What is your sister's financial situation like? Has it improved since she took over?

Check with a lawyer, but my understanding is that you have no right to your Mom's financial information unless your Mom allows it... and if your Mom grants it that your sister has no right to deny you that information.

If sis objects, reminder of the old addage... trust... but verify.

http://www.nolo.com/legal-encycloped...ams-33007.html
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Old 02-16-2017, 05:30 PM   #5
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You mentioned that your mother has a will. Have you seen it? Do you know who the executor is? Is there a trust?
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Old 02-16-2017, 05:55 PM   #6
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I think you need a lawyer. Are there any other siblings?
Is your mom of sound mind? Can you talk to her?
I do have a brother and he doesn't seem concerned. He has children who participate in the large gifts from Mom each year too. I don't know if sister and brother communicate about the estate, but I suspect they do. I do know that Mom inherited about 100 acres of farm land. Sister and brother decided it was too much trouble to maintain so they talked Mom into selling it. They never even considered the tax consequences. I was opposed to the sale and was cut out of the conversation. I'm single with no kids and have been conservative with my finances. So they think I've got plenty of money and don't need any more. Maybe I'm paranoid but I wouldn't be surprised if they're working on Mom to their advantage.

Mom's memory is bad but she can carry on fairly reasonable conversation. Unfortunately I don't think she'd even consider the thought for a moment that my sister and/or brother would do anything unfair. I doubt the conversation would to very far.

Mom said recently that she would like to go ahead and distribute her estate before she passes, which I thought it was a great idea. But sister and brother were opposed and talked her out of it. They like the big gifts their families get every year. They visit Mom at Christmas and help write the checks so nobody is forgotten or "gets hurt" by being left out. All Mom does is sign them. They could put any amount on there. Mom doesn't know the difference between $1000 and $10k these days. And I'm not left out. I get a gift too, but I'm never invited to the check writing sessions to know what others are getting. This is some of the info that's never shared.
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Old 02-16-2017, 05:57 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by km4hr View Post
Seems like I've read my story before, many times. But I never thought it would happen in my family.

My sister has POA for my 91yo mother's estate. My deceased Dad always managed the family finances. Mom never learned anything about it, or even cared to think about money. She was pleased when my sister offered to step in and take over financial matters after Dad died.

After my sister took over, things went well for a while. But for the past 5 years or so she has kept all financial information about the estate to herself. She simply won't talk about it. The estate was valued at over $2M but I don't know what it's worth today. Every year I ask for an update but she says I'm too concerned about money and changes the subject. She's offended and shocked that I don't trust her.

My question is this, does having POA mean that other stakeholders have no legal access to information regarding the estate? My Mother can still communicate but she's sort of in a different world. My sister has written her off as being incompetent and so she won't even try to participate in any conversation on the subject. She wouldn't act on any request my Mom might make anyway.

So what can I do, just wait until estate settlement day to see how things went?

Something else that bothers me is my sister's concern for her children. She thinks I have all the money I'll ever need and that her children need it worse. She convinced Mom years ago to give each grand child the maximum tax free gift allowed each year (about $14k each). I'm starting to worry that my sister might "reasonably" take the next step and convince Mom to change her will to direct more to her children. This could happen and I won't know it until the estate settles, the way things are going.

We used to have a fairly close knit family but this issue is taking its toll. I've heard it's not so unusual but I never thought it would happen to us.

Anyway, I've read sound advice/insight from folks on this forum before so I thought I'd give it a try.

What do you think I can/should I do? Thanks for hanging on this far.
I have heard of cases where the sibling with POA diverts most of the assets to their own purpose so that by the time any estate is to be settled there is nothing left. At that point, it would be unlikely civil or criminal remedies would recover much. Not saying this is the case with your sister, but seeking a conservatorship now would bring the situation into light.
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Old 02-16-2017, 06:13 PM   #8
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Hire an attorney. Have him write a demand letter for copies of the will and checking/saving account statements.

I took care of my Mother's finances in her last years and was executor of her estate. I sent the will and copies of her monthly financial statements to all my siblings.
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Old 02-16-2017, 06:15 PM   #9
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I would be concerned if I felt that my sister was neglecting or abusing my mother. I would not assume that I was entitled to a penny from her assets.
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Old 02-16-2017, 06:26 PM   #10
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I would be concerned if I felt that my sister was neglecting or abusing my mother. I would not assume that I was entitled to a penny from her assets.
The OP never indicated that he felt that he was "entitled" to anything. If my dear widowed father dies shortly after spending his last dime I'll be happy. If I ever thought that a sibling was hastening the day when Dad got down to his last dime, to their benefit, yes, I'd be concerned. Cheaters, if that's what the sister is doing, should not be allowed to get away with it.
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Old 02-16-2017, 06:31 PM   #11
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Cheaters, if that's what the sister is doing, should not be allowed to get away with it.
If what the OP says is true, the sister is using her POA to her and her children's gains. That cannot be right.

I would not be surprised if the brother condones what the sister is doing.

It sounds like time for a lawyer.
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Old 02-16-2017, 06:36 PM   #12
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But isn't the whole point of seeking legal counsel that you feel you have some claim on the funds that the sister is presumably siphoning off?

Many people -- heck, probably most people -- will not agree, but I believe everyone in the world would be substantially happier if they just gave up any thought of ever, under any circumstances, inheriting anything. Make your own money and live your own life. Again, that's just what I would do. OP should do as he sees fit.
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Old 02-16-2017, 06:41 PM   #13
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You mentioned that your mother has a will. Have you seen it? Do you know who the executor is? Is there a trust?
I don't recall ever actually reading Mom's will but I was present at the lawyer meeting when it was created. Mom was of sound mind then and she made it clear that her 3 children should share equally in her estate. But that was ~10 years ago and since then my sister has been the trusted financial adviser. Anything could have happened since then, including nothing. My sister is not a fundamentally dishonest person but I think she may sincerely believe that since I'm not needy, it would be "reasonable" for Mom to change her will. And sister might help Mom do it. But that thought might be just my own paranoia.

How would you go about asking to see a will anyway? I'm sure Mom wouldn't care but I'm just as sure my sister would go nuts. If Mom showed me a will how would I know it's genuine? Maybe the one that matters is at the lawyers office. Doing this would certainly build on the lack of trust that my sister accuses me of.
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Old 02-16-2017, 06:52 PM   #14
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But isn't the whole point of seeking legal counsel that you feel you have some claim on the funds that the sister is presumably siphoning off?

Many people -- heck, probably most people -- will not agree, but I believe everyone in the world would be substantially happier if they just gave up any thought of ever, under any circumstances, inheriting anything. Make your own money and live your own life. Again, that's just what I would do. OP should do as he sees fit.
No, the point of seeking legal counsel is to be certain the funds are being used for the mother's use only.

Except for the gifts to the grand children anything siphoning of money for any other purpose other than the mother's use and care is wrong in my opinion.
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Old 02-16-2017, 07:08 PM   #15
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But isn't the whole point of seeking legal counsel that you feel you have some claim on the funds that the sister is presumably siphoning off?

Many people -- heck, probably most people -- will not agree, but I believe everyone in the world would be substantially happier if they just gave up any thought of ever, under any circumstances, inheriting anything. Make your own money and live your own life. Again, that's just what I would do. OP should do as he sees fit.
Actually, I believe my sister may be handling Mom's finances mostly ok. She once talked about putting it in the hands of an adviser at Fidelity, which would have been a great idea. But she's never shown me a single statement. I can't think of a good reason for that. It could be she's just insulted that I ask about it and appear to question her judgement.

If you can just forget about inheriting a significant amount of money, and letting someone take if from you, then you're certainly different than me and I suspect most people. It's a noble ideal but have you ever actually been in that situation?
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Old 02-16-2017, 07:09 PM   #16
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When my wife took over her Mother's finances as Durable Power of Attorney, she provided copies of the DPOA, will, etc. to her two siblings. We also provide a monthly financial detail of each account and asset. Seemed obvious to us to provide this as transparency.

You should just ask your sister for a summary and a copy of the will. Seems reasonable. If she gets unreasonable, then just tell her that it shouldn't be necessary to involve a lawyer. If your sister is not acting in the estate's best interest, she could be legally removed as POA. Probably a difficult process, and you may never speak to your sister again. This is the point when my FIL and his brother never spoke for the remaining 35 years of their lives.
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Old 02-16-2017, 07:42 PM   #17
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Actually, I believe my sister may be handling Mom's finances mostly ok.
Siphoning off money is a pretty big deal in my book.

Transparency is important.
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Old 02-16-2017, 07:44 PM   #18
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I would be concerned if I felt that my sister was neglecting or abusing my mother. I would not assume that I was entitled to a penny from her assets.
My sister is not neglecting or abusing Mom. I hope I haven't created that impression. If Mom spent every dime of her money it would be fine with me. She lives happily in a retirement home and is well taken care of, but it ain't cheap! She taught school for 30 years and consequently has good pension and SS which covers most of her expenses. She's not likely going to spend all her assets under any reasonable circumstances. I feel "entitled" to 1/3 of whatever is left when SHE's done with it. Note the emphasis on the word SHE, not my sister or brother and their families. That's what concerns me. I want to to avoid getting short changed. And the secrecy of my sister isn't helping.
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Old 02-16-2017, 07:48 PM   #19
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Actually, I believe my sister may be handling Mom's finances mostly ok. She once talked about putting it in the hands of an adviser at Fidelity, which would have been a great idea. But she's never shown me a single statement. I can't think of a good reason for that. It could be she's just insulted that I ask about it and appear to question her judgement.

If you can just forget about inheriting a significant amount of money, and letting someone take if from you, then you're certainly different than me and I suspect most people. It's a noble ideal but have you ever actually been in that situation?
I have observed people fight with their siblings over the most trivial amounts of money and personal property, so I don't think its the size of the inheritance that is the problem, but the concept of getting one's "fair share".

As for me, both of my parents are still living. They divorced almost 40 years ago and then each remarried a spouse who had their own children from a prior marriage. I have no idea of their current finances, but it is a fair bet that they are modest, at best. That is irrelevant, however, as I assume that each of them will predecease their respective spouses, who will then pass anything on to their own children. But even if my parents were to survive their current spouses, I wouldn't assume that they would leave anything to me. They could spend it all in a nursing home, or leave it to the animal shelter or church. Or they could, and should, give it to my brother, my sister and/or my nieces and nephews. They all need money much more than I do.

My wife and I planned and worked to be in the strong financial position we are today. We have the satisfaction of knowing that every dollar in our account is there because we earned it, saved it and invested it; none of it was a gift. So I'm happy. Inheriting money won't make my life better and not inheriting won't make it worse.

In any event, I'm sorry for the discord between you and your sister. It is a tough situation to be in, and I'm really not sure what you can do short of legal action if your sister refuses to talk with you. I'm certain you can appreciate that once you take that step, however, there's no going back.
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Old 02-16-2017, 07:54 PM   #20
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My sister is not neglecting or abusing Mom. I hope I haven't created that impression. If Mom spent every dime of her money it would be fine with me. She lives happily in a retirement home and is well taken care of, but it ain't cheap! She taught school for 30 years and consequently has good pension and SS which covers most of her expenses. She's not likely going to spend all her assets under any reasonable circumstances. I feel "entitled" to 1/3 of whatever is left when SHE's done with it. Note the emphasis on the word SHE, not my sister or brother and their families. That's what concerns me. I want to to avoid getting short changed. And the secrecy of my sister isn't helping.
Yeah, the secrecy of the sister creates suspicion, naturally. I handled my dad's finances and estate, and I provided as much transparency as I could. I knew my siblings would naturally be suspicious if everything was happening behind closed doors (I would be, too). Your sister's unwillingngess to be open about it suggests she is up to something. It's not proof of it, but it's definitely reason to be concerned. She could be siphoning off money. She could be manipulating your mother because of her mental state. Who knows.

I agree with the idea of consulting a lawyer. You don't necessarily want to go aggressively after your sister -- family divisions created by legal battles can last a lifetime -- but you want to know what your rights and options are. Only a lawyer will be able to properly advise you.
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