As power of attorney, am I legally required to provide written quarterly updates to my siblings?

1 answer | Last updated: Oct 15, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

I have power of attorney for my mother who has dementia and is in a locked unit of an assisted living facility. I visit her three times weekly, pay all of her bills, deal with all medical and financial issues, and recently had to oversee the sale of her house and belongings. I have been providing my sibling with written updates quarterly regarding the status of her accounts and expenses. My sister and her husband are now demanding that I provide, quarterly, a formal accounting including hard copies of all account statements with details of investments as well as bank statements with canceled checks and documentation of all expenses associated with her care. This is totally overwhelming for me. My mother could live another 10 years. Am I legally responsible to do this? I have read my power of attorney and do not see any documentation regarding this request. I have both durable and financial POA's. They are threatening me with legal action.

Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a 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.

As your mother's agent under her power of attorney, you may be required to file a periodic "reasonable accounting" of her financial affairs"”especially if a court orders it or the accounting duty is specifically written into the POA.

It sounds as if you may not be legally required to file the accounting"”and at least not required to file one as onerous as your sister is demanding. That written, though, from a practical standpoint, you will need to find a way to deal with their demand since it won't likely go away. And just as importantly, you will want to find a solution so that it will stop feeling so overwhelming"”and as if your best is just not good enough.

Talk with your sister and her husband and find out what's at the bottom of their demands. Do they truly fear you will make off with your mother's money? Do they think you are mishandling funds? Do they just feel a little bit envious or left out of the relationship you have with your mother? There may be some easier way to assuage their real feelings.

If they persist in requiring some sort of accounting, come up with a method that is manageable for you"”and may even make your job easier. For example, you may offer to give them periodic printouts from simple software that tracks income and expenses. Or you could offer to hire an accountant or bookkeeper to do the job"”pointing out that pay for this would come from your mother's remaining funds unless your sister and husband spring for it.

If you are not able to reach a solution, the worst that could happen is that your sister will go to court"”and a court would likely impose an accounting requirement that is less onerous than the one she is demanding now. While it's usually best to try to keep courts out of family matters, sometimes they provide the voice of reason.