How can I be sure the power of attorney agent is acting properly?

1 answer | Last updated: Mar 15, 2011
Don asked...

How can I be sure my nephew (who has the power of attorney for my sister and her husband's finances and healthcare) is properly using their financial assets to see that they are cared for? How can I determine that he is not misusing their money and other assets?

Expert Answers

Amy Shelf is an attorney specializing in estate planning and probate for individuals and families of all means.

It can be very difficult to find out what is going on in this situation.

Your nephew has an obligation to use his authority as agent in the power of attorney to act in your sister and her husband’s best interests. However, an agent named in a power of attorney is not automatically required to account or report to a court or to other family members.

If you have reasons to believe that your sister and her husband are not being physically cared for or your nephew is being hostile to you and is not permitting you to see or visit your sister, it may be appropriate to contact local adult protective services for help.

Alternatively, the law of your state may permit you to ask a court to review your nephew’s acts as agent under the powers of attorney. If you have evidence that demonstrates that your sister and her husband need protection, you can also petition a court to become their conservators or guardians—an arrangement that would give you the authority to deal with their money, property and care.

A more practical approach right now might be simply to talk with your nephew about your desire to know what is going on—and your desire to help. A caretaker, especially one who is overworked, can easily slip into a feeling of being entitled to use the principal’s assets for his or her own needs because of the stress and the work involved. Frequently, the caretaker needs compassion and help; if other family members step up and share in the workload, or even simply visit frequently and bring food, the result is usually improved communication.

If your nephew has brothers or sisters, you may want to talk with them about your concerns. They may have information that you don’t have, and, as your sister’s other children, they may be in a better position to demand information if your nephew is not forthcoming—or to take over the caretaking duties.