Does sibling with POA have a responsibility to share information?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 16, 2016
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My mother has vascular dimentia and alzheimers that I am unsure of just how long. I am fairly sure much longer than when we picked up on it. My sister and I don't get along so we assist my mother pretty much separately. Recently I discovered she has POA and my mother admits she did give it to my sister last year in May, but wishes she hadn't. I have been telling my mother that she trusted my sister before and that she should continue to - that sis loves her. But as time has went by there have been several instances that are questionable - like going to Hawaii (my sister does not usually have this kind of money). But even more concerning to me is the lack of sharing information of my mother's medical treatment and diagnosis. She will not allow me to take her to Dr. appts. But also has not kept me up to date with her care. I have asked her to show me a copy of the POA but all she does is wave it at me and will not let me review it. As time goes on, my mother more and more is calmer with me and doesn't want anything to do with sis - who has been living with her now for 4 mos. I understand that is part of the disease but.. is there a responsibility of the POa to share medical and financial metters with the other siblings. It just seems to me that she cannot do as she please she should be doing what is best for my mother. To make matters worse my sister moved my mother into an assisted living home 3 weeks ago,without consulting me. I try to ask questions as to why we did'nt try getting professional in home help or taking her to adult day care centers, how much money is available, who is going to live in Mom's home, etc. I am retired and my sister works - I feel we could have worked more together ( putting aside our differences) on her care but she will not. What are her responsibilities as POA?

Expert Answers

Sadly, I have received numerous questions like yours from folks over the past few years. I am not at all an expert on elder law abuse, and I am not experienced in what can be done when possible POA abuse is suspected. You specifically want to know if your sister, who has POA from your mother, has a responsibility to share information with you, the other sister. Morally, definitely yes. But legally, that's doubtful. POAs"”technically called "durable POAs" because they remain effective even if/when the principal (here, your mother) becomes mentally incompetent"”are a relatively new legal device. I think that there is not a substantial body of law and legal decisions regarding what can be done if an abuse of a POA is suspected.

Legally, the person who hold the POA is called an "agent" of the principal. As agent is a "fiduciary" of and for the principal, which means that the agent must act in the highest good faith. All this sounds good, but then what is you suspect the agent is not acting in good faith? The only remedy I know is to file a lawsuit, alleging that the agent has abused and violated her fiduciary duties. Lawsuits are expensive; lawyers are expensive. Perhaps even worse, proving an abuse of fiduciary duties will not be easy. It will cost money and time to take the agent's deposition, subpoena her records and try to establish facts that show abuse.

One possibility is to negotiate with your sister, suggesting that you do not want to file a lawsuit but you are aware that a lawsuit is a possible remedy. Another possibility is to talk to an elder-law attorney and see what, if anything, she or he can recommend, aside from a lawsuit.

I wish I could give you more helpful and hopeful advice.