Was using Mom's investment accounts without her consent legal?

1 answer | Last updated: Oct 21, 2016
Kirbycat asked...

My mother had Alzheimer's and my stepbrother and his wife and his sister were paid a lot of money out of my mother's investment accounts, without her consent, to care for both my mother and my stepfather. This arrangement was set up by my stepfather before he became Successor Trustee.

In addition, some of the money was also used to pay for household expenses. I believe they also had Medicare.

Was this arrangement legal in any way?

Expert Answers

I cannot tell whether what happened with your mom's investment accounts was legal or not. Since your mom had Alzheimer's, was anyone legally authorized to make financial decisions for her? One way to accomplish this is for a person (the "principal) to prepare what's called a "durable power of attorney for finances" to name another person (the "agent-in-fact") to act for the principal. Do you know if that was done here? The principal must be mentally competent when she authorized the DPA.

Next, I do not know what relationship, legally (and personally) you mother had with your stepfather. Did your stepfather have any authorization from your mother to handle her accounts? What rights did he have as Successor Trustee? [I do not know what he was Successor Trustee of. I presume of a living trust created by your mother.]

Further, what was the money paid for? Was most of it paid for care for your mother, and your stepfather? If it was, it would be hard for you to establish that something wrong went on here. On the other hand, if most of the money was spent for your stepbrother, his wife, and his sister, that could be fraud, or some other recognized legal wrong.

Finally, proving fraud is not easy. You need some hard evidence that something fishy went on here. Then you need to find a lawyer willing to look into the matter and sue on your behalf. Even then, you'd probably have to pay the lawyer up front, which could be quite costly.