I think my sister is committing fraud against my mother!

1 answer | Last updated: Oct 14, 2016
Griffin10 asked...

I am my mom's Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA), assigned in 1995. When the government asked the seniors to have a bank account for direct deposit, I went to our local bank with my mom and we set it up, with me as joint account holder. At the time I presented the customer service rep a copy of the POA document. A week later I received a call from my sister who said that she could no longer pay Mom's bill the way the account was set up, however all that was needed was for Mom to sign the bottom of the check, and at that time she was perfectly able to do that. However my sister has convinced Mom it wasn't going to work. So I said I will take you back to the bank and have my sister added as an authorized signer only. Mom agreed.

Unknown to me, two days later my sister took Mom to the bank and had the account closed, created a new account and managed to have a clerk place on the account that I was not my Mom's POA and all statements wer to go through her. For the past 11 years Mom's bills have been paid, so I thought all must be going ok...however, I stopped one day at the bank and asked for a copy of the statement and the bank refused to talk to me about the account and said I was not on the account and I had nothing to do with my mother's financial business.

Now Mom had drawn a new will which I knew about and thought, well, maybe she just might have made my sister POA. However in March of this year we decided to place Mom in a nursing home, and when I asked my sister for a copy of her POA...she said I thought you were.

Before going to the home my mom cracked her hip, had some surgery and decided to stay with my sister for rehab. When the state asked for bank records there were none and I had to make a visit to the bank...at that time I asked a vice-president to take my POA document, read it and place the info into the record and get rid of the message on Mom's account. They did and presented me with five years of records.

The three years Mom stayed at my sister's place was a financial disaster. She wrote checks to my mom and then signed the back. The total checks added up to $17,000 for the three years...is my sister frauding my mother and the rest of the family or is the bank wrong in placing the note in the record?

Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a Caring.com senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

As you know best because you're living it, you've described a complicated scenario"”and some of the past dealings between the bank and your sister do sound rather "irregular," to say the least.

The best you might be able to do at this point is to find a way to go forward that protects your mother's finances and ensures that she is getting the best possible care. Ironically, that may be happening if she is now in long-term care"”and if state authorities intervened to get access to the records.

It sounds as if your sister no longer has access to the funds"”and what may practically happen is that the nursing home will manage and account for most things. But make sure that this is true"”and if you need help or assurance in this matter, consider contacting the ombudsman at your mother's nursing home, who should be willing to help you straighten out this matter.

The rest of your concerns seem to be about history"”and you will need to decide on your own whether you think it's important to revisit that scene.

In an ideal world, you could sit down with your sister, explain your concern about your mother's finances and ask her to clear up any questions you may have about how the money was spent over those previously unaccounted three years. By many lights, spending $17,000 in three years on your mother's medical care and food and amenities does not seem to be an unreasonable amount. You might just need the assurance that the money was spent as represented.