How can we get my sisters to sign paperwork without taking them to court?

1 answer | Last updated: Oct 06, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

Hi, I am a son-in-law who has helped take care of my Mother-in-law for 9 months now. My wife was given full POA but it seems to be getting us nowhere. My sister-in-laws have established trust funds for mom before she had dementia and still have control of her money. Although my wife has POA durable and Health care proxy they refuse to sign the necessary documents to put mom's money to use for her. We can't do it all 24 hours a day in which my wife and I have put in at least 14 a day. This is between taking care of her financial issues and taking care of her. The answer we get is put her in a nursing home. She wants to stay home and we have felt obligated to grant her wishes. But we need help to. So needless to say we have to sell her stock to help pay her in house help. They refuse to sign the paperwork even though my wife is Power of attorney and it is written right in the legal document that my wife can sell her assets. We don't want anything but to love her.I have been told that my wife can go to the court and make them sign the papers but we don't want to do it that way. It seems to me our only choice. The bills are getting backed up and it is just one more part of anxiety neither of us need. Can she override this in court? Of course if anyone has a better idea we will gladly listen. But it is not fair to the people who have been caregivers with us to go unpaid. The real question is if my Mother-in-law is the person on top of the stock certificate and both my sister in laws are underneath can we make them sign it with a court injunction? It was put in place to take care of Mom but greed is getting in the way from them. We are so hurt and frustrated and need all the wisdom anyone would like to share.

Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a 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.

For all kinds of reasons, you and your wife likely want to avoid the time and possible angst associated with going to court, especially when your hands and hearts are more than full with your caregiving duties.

But your mother-in-law also took the step of finalizing a power of attorney naming your wife as her agent"”and if that document has come into effect because your mother-in-law can no longer act for herself, then your wife must step in and act to make sure she gets the best care possible. As you describe the situation, that likely means selling or liquidating some assets as the power of attorney directs. It sounds as if all her attempts to reason with the sisters to get their cooperation have fallen on deaf ears, so getting a court order may be the clearest and only avenue open at this point.

You may decide to hire a lawyer for help"”and it may come in handy to hire a lawyer just to get straight on what property your mother-in-law owns outright at this point so that your wife knows definitively what may be available to provide for her care. A surprising fallout from hiring a lawyer may be that the sisters sit up and take notice of their bad behavior and realize that they need to cooperate.

Another option: Many superior and probate courts that enforce powers of attorney have quite good self-help centers or personnel on hand who will help you fill out needed paperwork, so it may be worth checking out what free help is available locally first.