As a distant DPOA, can we be paid for time and expenses?

A fellow caregiver asked...

I am spouse of DPOA asking the question. My husband works 7 days a week, and leaves me with any and all loose ends to tie up during daytime hours, such as writing to forums like this etc. I am so glad to have found this website. Husband's biological mother requested a meeting their first meeting at age 30- he is now 50. She lives in Philadelphia, we live in Texas. He's met her THREE times total. The last time he met with her, she had banks, lawyers, paperwork, all drawn up and waiting for his arrival and asked him to sign as power of attorney for all her assets and CO-OWNER of all her assets. Thirty is still pretty young and I am not sure he knew what he was "taking on". She had never married, never had other children, and was concerned more than anything with a living will allowing her not to be put on life support if she were in a coma. Within the past two years, she has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's (he said SHE never in all her wildest dreams imagined a loss of intellectual abilities as she knows 7 languages, worked for the government as foreign diplomat, etc). Doctors tried Aricept at first, she had untoward sided effects to the Aricept drug, which was then stopped.....she continues to worsen. My husband has been in touch with the Life Care folks (an extremely competent and loving group by the way)who have been providing in home care. They are in touch with us weekly/ monthly, as new problems develop. Usually me, but of course I pass the info on to husband in the evening. Now they need us to take over her finances. She is losing money. She withdraw large sums at a time staples it to "bills" and leaves them in drawers, purses, etc. She believes other people live in her condo and have an office in her second bedroom. etc. Our question/problem is her assets are worth over 1 million. We have a child going into college and are working on getting our debts down. There is not one extra penny. Now my husband is having to travel to Pennsylvania for a woman he barely knows, set up to have IRS taxes paid, check on her accounts, get control of her banking, pay her bills from now on from out of state, lose work salary, and plane fare. (Of course he wants me to travel up there with him so I can understand how to HELP HIM with all this when he comes back and leaves it all for me to double check) If we had extra money and time we would be able to do this gladly. I hae nevver even met his bio mom but I love her and write to her just because she gave my husband life! I know it sounds as if I am complaining about the money- It's just the way it is- there is NO MONEY except to continue for us to go into debt farther. We are already in a hole and barely trying to dig out and now the youngest will go to college this year. How does anyone deal with these expenses? Are there others out there that have any words of wisdom? We are going to call a lawyer and see him this month before he leaves for his Philadelphia visit- another expense. Just put it on a credit card I guess- something we are trying desperately to STOP! Thanks for listening anyways. I have no one to talk to about this.

Expert Answer

Steve Weisman hosts the nationally syndicated radio show A Touch of Grey, heard on more than 50 stations, including WABC in New York City and KRLA in Los Angeles. He is a practicing lawyer specializing in estate planning and is admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court. He's a public speaker and commentator who has appeared on many radio and television shows throughout the country, and he's the legal editor of Talkers magazine, the preeminent trade publication of talk radio. His latest book is The Truth About Avoiding Scams.

The most significant fact is that you indicated that your husband's mother not only provided him with authority to act on her behalf through a Durable Power of Attorney, but also made him a co-owner of her assets.

There are essentially two kinds of co-ownership - tenants in common or joint tenants. If you husband was listed on the assets as a tenant in common, he would have a right to take half of the assets. If on the other hand he was designated as a joint owner of the assets, he would have the legal right to take as much of the assets as he wished.

The specific language is the first place to go to determine what his rights are as far as being reimbursed for expenses while acting on behalf of his mother through her Durable Power of Attorney. If the Durable Power of Attorney is silent on this matter, he still would have the right to reimburse himself for his reasonable costs incurred in acting through the Durable Power of Attorney including, but not limited to his travel costs.

The Durable Power of Attorney may also permit him to have the power to make gifts. If it does, he could use that authority to make gifts to himself in accordance with what he would determine would be her wishes if he is so authorized within the Durable Power of Attorney.

In conclusion, he may be able to have legal access for himself to his mother's assets through his co-ownership of the assets; he may be able to compensate himself for expenses through the Durable Power of Attorney; and he may be able to make gifts through the Durable Power of Attorney.

Ultimately, the best thing you can do is what you indicated you will be doing, namely consult a lawyer who can see how assets are titled and read the Durable Power of Attorney as well as learn the story in more detail to best advise you. However, it does appear that you have several helpful options.