How do my husband and I find out if his sister has POA and/or guardianship?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 17, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

How do we verify that my husband's sister has POA? She told my husband she does and she sold his mother's house which was in his mother's and his sister's names. My sister-in-law told my husband that when she went to deposit the money she got for the house, that the bank would not deposit it without his mother's signature. His sister left the bank, signed the check with his mother's name and took it back to the bank to deposit. His sister knows what is in the will and so does his brother-in-law but not my husband. We have no idea if she is legal in what she is doing and don't know how to find out. I always thought that signing someone else's name was not legal. Also, she told my husband that she has POA but her husband does all the paperwork and finances. Is that OK too?

Expert Answers

Ah, another difficult situation, probably without an easy answer. You want to learn how you can find out if your husband's sister (your sister-in-law) has Power of Attorney over her mother's property.

My first suggestion is that your husband ask his mother is she has given POA to her daughter. Of course, this assumes that the mother is now competent and capable of giving you a rational answer. I do not know if the mother is now competent. If she is not, but gave a "durable" POA to her daughter, that POA would remain valid as long as the mother lives.

Even if the mother is competent, she may not want to reveal to her son if she gave a POA to her daughter, or, if she did, what was in it.

If the mother will not, or cannot, reveal whether she gave a POA to her daughter, your possible legal remedies are limited, and expensive. Your husband would have to file a lawsuit against his sister, alleging either that she did not have a durable POA, or that she was abusing her authority under it. Proving either would be a difficult matter.

I gather that your sister-in-law will not give a copy of the POA to her brother.[She certainly could if she wanted to.] This, if true, indicates to me a family problem far beyond any advice I could offer.

If your sister-in-law has POA over her mother's finances, she can, as agent for her mother, signs checks on her mother's behalf. This is different than simply forging her mother's name on a check. As far as your sister-in-law's husband doing all the paperwork and finances for the mother, I see nothing illegal in that. It may be unwise or otherwise undesirable, but that does not by itself make it legally impermissible.