Is my family's financial abuse of me illegal?

6 answers | Last updated: Sep 21, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

I am 73 yo and a legal resident of Alabama. I have a good mind and only have problems with disabling diseases. When I came to live with my adopted-daughter and her husband in a house I purchased for our convenience, I gave my sibling a power of attorney to take care of things I couldn't. I also put her on my banking. Without my knowledge or permission, my daughter got herself credit in my name, withdrew unknown amounts of funds from my debit and savings accounts, purchased items for herself and husband, comitted me to a three year contract with an alarm service and generally wasted my money on herself, husband and friends. She would put my social security payment in my bank and withdraw it immediately with what ever other monies she wanted. My question is: is this an unlegal abuse of me, my banking funds and power of attorney, when applicable? Thanks


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.

It does sound as if the actions your daughter has taken"”hacking into your accounts without your permission and spending your money on herself rather than in your best interests"”could amount to financial abuse, which is illegal.

If your sibling is acting as your agent under a power of attorney, with her name on your bank accounts, it is surprising that she is allowing these actions. Your first step may be to talk with your sibling about your suspicions, and get some clarification about why she is allowing your daughter to use up the money contrary to your best interests.

You could be more formal about it, by asking for an accounting of how your accounts are being managed"”and this would help bring to light the specifics of what your daughter is spending"”and where.

If your daughter is financially abusing you by misspending, than you will need to think hard about what action you want to take.

If you want to try to continue living together under the same roof, you will have to make clear what funds she can use. If you feel your sibling is not doing an adequate job overseeing things as your agent in your power of attorney, consider revoking her powers and appointing someone else to do the job.

If you want to start an investigation of your daughter's spending, with the possibility of pressing charges for financial abuse, consider contacting the local Adult Protective Services agency for advice. In some locales, you can also report financial abuse to local police to investigate, but bear in mind that they are more likely to evict your daughter at once, and that may or may not be in keeping with your wishes.

Finally, if you just want to discuss some possible options with local authorities, consider contacting representatives from the local Area Agency on Agency, who should be willing to discuss the matter confidentially. You can find the local office through the Caring.com website at www.caring.com/local/area-agency-on-aging.


Community Answers

Cancun answered...

This type of action by your daughter ,I am afraid has turned into an ediction that may never be fixed( I have a friend whose spouse has been stealing from her and also inheritance) and is still doing it and not giving her money to live on. she lives in fear because he threatens to foreclose on her property. When it comes to money, its amazing how far people will do. I'm sure if she evicts them they may never speak to her and that will torment her and be filled with sadness although that seems to be the best way out, if she she feels she can take it. After all, she is the one who did wrong and most likely continue while living with her. BUT, I'm sure the abuse is tormenting her anyway. No-one should be abused. Age 73 is still young and hopefully can live on her own, but the case is she needs help at home being cared for and can afford it, (probably cheaper than what's being stolen thru charge cards anyway. Even if she promises not to do it again, in her heart the parent may always have doubts. Like I said its an addiction, she may never be loosed from it. If their is money issue of money to have someone come in to clean,cook, light health care she may always get a reverse mortgage and get help she needs. The town she lives in has social services for advice. I will pray for this woman. I'm a hairdresser and I have heard hundreds of these cases for about 40 years and also in my own family. You, lovely parent should not be so damaged by this abuse, emotionally, or monetarily. Trust me sweety, you really need to get them out, you dont need to live your golden years in pain, and i dont mean physical which probably exists anyway. I'm 63 and I have started with the physical pain.Just remember I'm sure your daughter loves, that is not why she does it. its turned into an addiction, so dont ever feel its because she doesnt love you enough.. BLESS YOU and may the SPIRIT of GOD fill you with HIS WISDOM AND stregnth to do what is right for you.


Love mission answered...

Everything written above is so right on........i have a long story I could sadly share what happened similar to my Aunt. This isn't right and the sad part is the victim becomes afraid. Hoping the victim will be brave and get professional advice immediately without hesitating about right or wrong.

Being alone can be beneficial. Put your money to work in your favor by going into a retirement facility while you have your faculties and meet new friends...be happy before you leave earth...don't live in misery. God doesn't want this for anyone who has worked so many years and then become a victim from their own family. I am so sad when i read this type of stuff and wish i had the power to assist. Flow


Micol answered...

The nice part of giving someone/realitive Power of Attorney is that it comes with a contract that both parties must sign. The person or persons are now legally bound to use your assits wisely. You now have a legal right to have the misused funds returned. Seek legal advice, now.


A fellow caregiver answered...

The question confuses me, unless you meant that you gave your daughter power-of-attorney and added her name to the bank account. If one of your siblings is your POA and is on your bank account, then I would think they would be the only ones who could withdraw money from your bank, unless your daughter is using a debit card. In that case, simply change the PIN for the debit card. You also need to cancel the credit card that she obtained in your name.

I feel badly that this is happening to you. Good luck in trying to get it straightened out. Many seniors are being abused (both physically and financially) these days by the children they reared. It sounds as though you'd be better off having the daughter and son-in-law move out and instead find an honest, unemployed person to come live with you and provide any care you need in exchange for the amount of your social security income (minus your other bills). That would leave your savings for you instead of for your daughter.


Cancun answered...

From Cancun: I wrote the previous letter to the 73 yr. old mother at about 4AM. , therefor I forgot to add the following info concerning what the daughter did. Not only did she financially abuse you, but she committed FRAUD which is punishable by law, it is a federal offense. If you dont want to have her go to jail, I would be very cautious how you handle this. It should be discreet as possible. Opening credit card in your name is stealing your identity. I don't doubt that she got your social security number from your medicare card and probably used your debit card to withdraw money from a ATM machine. She must also know your password to use your debit card. I live in Ct. and no one can withdraw money from an account without an ID of some sort, I assume its the same in your state unless the bank worker could have let it pass. It seems as though she might have withdrawn the money with the debit card where no ID is necessary.