Do I have the right to sign checks as power of attorney?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 28, 2016
Rcb asked...

I am power of attorney for a dear friend of mine. She tells me that whatever is left after she dies is mine according to the will she wrote and all papers signed for p.o.a.,dpoa,mental poa. In her poa she has stated that her care giver (me) should be compensated for assisting her in her daily needs, medical needs and any other assistance I must give her. I have given her bank, insurance company, utilities and investment accounts copies of the poa written by her attorney. Since her multiple hospitalizations I have given her much time and effort both physically and mentally. She is now being attended by a 24 hour care giver service which is very expensive. Hospice is also on duty to check her daily health decline. Do I have a right to write checks other than for her? Can I write a check to myself to be compensated for time and travel or as a loan from her to me? Her documents do not state how much she is willing to pay me for my services but she constantly tells me that her money is mine. She has mild dementia which is growing with each day. She will not sign any more documents or checks because she feels that it is no longer necessary and becasue she cannot read the print she does not want to sign something she can't read. She is not the easiest person to get along with at this point in her life. I do not want to be writing checks to me if this can cause problems with an audit. She has no family such as husband, children or others. What happens if I do write a check to myself and note the reason on the check. I am on all of her accounts as secondary in the capacity of attorney in fact. This is a vey touchy subject. On one hand I feel I should do as she wishes and on the other hand I feel compelled to only pay her expenses without compensating myself. she is 89 years old has copd,emphesyma,rapid heart beat,leukemia and severe throat infection besides uncontrolable bowels and bladder. She is on oxygen and is now unable to eat very much or feed herslf. She lives in her own apartment. I am thinking of finding another care giver service or transferring her to a facility that would be less costly but for her health issues to be closer to immediate medical care in the event she has a heart attack or other life threatening issues. She is not wanting to do this as she wants to be at home with her cat. I took this position on in good faith for a dear friend but am now finding it has been costing me money out of my pocket having to drive for her needs and sometimes taking off from work to assist her. I do not want anyone saying I cheated her or scammed her out of her money. God has given me the energy to help my friend in need but I feel I must find answers to these questions. Her papers were written by her attorney in one state but she now lives in another state.


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's unusual for a power of attorney to contain the provision that you describe about compensating the caregiver. And your obvious thoughtfulness and sensitivity about the issue shows you are not likely to abuse the arrangement. But what seems most difficult is that you are pinned in the difficult spot of being in charge, but not knowing exactly what that means, according to the documents controlling your hand.

Consider a few steps: First, try to arrange for care that helps relieve some of the psychological and financial burden from you. If the current hospice service is not able to step in to offer more help, you may be able to find one that is"”and in many communities, that care can be low-cost or even free. Hospice also offers the added advantage of allowing your friend to stay at home, which seems to be her heartfelt desire. Check the in-home care and hospice options on the Caring.com website under "Senior Living Directory" for help in finding other care options in your area.

Since you will likely need to need access to the funds soon, but want to stay on the legal up and up, one approach may be to contact the attorney who wrote in the compensation provision and ask him or her to issue a letter of interpretation that spells out more clearly what your friend's funds can be used for, and what would be considered reasonable compensation for you given all the intricacies of the situation. This may not only provide you with some peace of mind that you're doing the right thing, but could also help protect you in the future on the offchance anyone claims that you are acting or spending out of line.

Finally, you might want to at least begin to look into the possibility of obtaining an adult guardianship or conservatorship for your friend"”with you or some other person in charge of making decisions and managing resources for your friend. You can find out more on the basics of guardianship and conservatorships at https://www.caring.com/adult-guardianship.