How do I get financial POA for my mother?
I am the POA for my mother who has been diagnosed with dementia.
My older sister went with my mom to the bank and added her name to our mom's accounts so now they are joint accounts with her. This seemed reasonable at the time.
Now, I am concerned that I will not be able to get an accounting from the bank now of how the money is spent, and my sister is resentful of my asking her.
What can and should I do as POA in this situation, and can I get financial POA?
The legal answer to your question may depend on where the account is held. Some state statutes—Florida is one example of this—specifically give the agent of a power of attorney the right to access a joint holder’s account, even without the consent or knowledge of the other account owner. In many states, however—the majority of them—the law is simply silent on the issue; in these states, people in need of legal guidance would need to research whether the courts have made a decision on the topic.
To research the law in your state, try an Internet search for “power of attorney” “joint account,” “access” and “the name of the state.” Or you could ask the bank manager or an attorney for the specific answer to the question.
However, in your case, the legal answer may not provide completely satisfactory guidance, since your sister may still feel resentful about your queries and you may still feel sneaky and disturbed about having to go behind her back.
So no matter what the letter of the law is in your state, try once more to resolve the issue openly before your psyches take over and make the issue of access bigger than it is in reality. Explain to your sister that you are legal charged with managing your mothers account—and making sure the money is spent in your mother’s best interests. And respect that your sister may need access to the funds to make purchases on your mother’s behalf and doesn’t want you hovering and fretting over every expenditure.
If you and your sister remain unable to see eye to eye on the situation, you may be able to convince the bank manager to send you both monthly statements of the account. Or you may be able to remove all humans from the equation by setting up the account so that both you and your sister have Internet access to it.
My heart goes out to you. It's difficult enough being a caregiver for your mom much less having a conflict along with it. As I needed to be added to my mother's bank account, I know how much frustration that eliminated for me with not being authorized to handle her business and her not being capable anymore. My suggestion is to have her mom agree to add you to the account(s) as well. Also, as a notary I can tell you one thing we look for when performing those duties is if the signer is coherent. So, please get any other paperwork that needs notarizing done immediately.
As POA you have the RESPONSIBILITY to not only monitor, but to CONTROL (conduct, manage, and protect) your mother's affairs if you have reason to believe that she is not capable of managing alone. If she has been diagnosed with dementia, a letter from a doctor is sufficient proof.
It is not clear to me why your sister needs to be on the account with your mother, unless she is the primary caregiver and lives with her. Even IF that is the case, she may not necessarily have the right to spend your mother's assets without your permission and oversight - preferably IN WRITING, and with CLEARLY DEFINED PARAMETERS.
By the same token, if your sister IS in fact the live-in caregiver, you need to understand the thankless nature of the job and not unduly withhold funds, so that your mother and sister can live comfortably together, INCLUDING providing for RESPITE breaks for your sister.
In order to make all this work out so that your mom does not run out of money, you will probably need some help with budgeting and long-term planning. You can best get this by hiring an estate attorney with a specialty in elder law.
If for some reason you are suspicious of your sister's having been added to your mother's account(s) you can ask yourself (not your mother - yourself) these questions.
"WOULD MY MOTHER HAVE PUT MY SISTER ON HER BANK ACCOUNT OF HER OWN ACCORD?"
"WOULD MY MOTHER HAVE GONE TO THE BANK AND MADE THIS CHANGE IF MY SISTER HAD NOT TAKEN HER THERE AND ENCOURAGED HER TO DO IT? "
If the answer to either of the questions above is NO, then your sister would be considered to have exercised "UNDUE INFLUENCE" over your mother. In every state, if your mother is over the age of 65, this exercise of undue influence is considered a crime...
Presumably, your mother gave POWER OF ATTORNEY to YOU before your sister was added to your mom's account. Therefore, one would assume that at the time your mother made you her POA, she was mentally clearer than she is now, as well as when your sister "was added" to the account.
POA is a tough job. It can make for a lot of resentment. But done well, it can REALLY make the difference between a disaster and a happy ending for a vulnerable elder.
KEEP IN MIND your mother has given YOU the power to PROTECT, to CONTROL, and to MANAGE - her affairs. In order to do it, you NEED to have DETERMINATION, and COURAGE...
But remember: *You ALREADY HAVE the POWER!!" (Literally)
Hope this helps.
Be careful on this kind of situation. My brother was my Nana's Power of Attorney for the trust and he ended up moving everything into his accounts. So, I ended up with having a trust that was worth nothing.....should have been over 500K. He told me that my Nana did not want me to have any of the money. He also borrowed money from the trust that was supposed to be paid back, but said that my Nana said the money did not have to be paid back. Not a nice thing to take to the grave.