Can I use my power of attorney to deal with my ex-husband's alcoholism?

Astrohl asked...

My ex-husband is drinking himself to death, has gone through rehab, and went back to drinking right out of rehab. I have a durable power of attorney which he never revoked upon our divorce. He is not working and is living off of his 401k. His sister wants me to force him into living in an apartment, sell his house, for which my name is still on the mortgage, and have him live off of what ever we can get from the sale of the house. Can I do this with the power of attorney even if he refuses to move? He is not paying bills and doesn't even try to. His sister and I have been attempting to pay his bills from his checking account, but can not keep up on it.

Expert Answer

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.

It sounds as if you and your former sister-in-law are in a difficult and uncomfortable situation—especially you.


In a number of states—including Alabama, California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin—a divorce usually revokes a power of attorney. But if you do not live in one of these states, you are still empowered as your former husband’s agent.


The truth is, no matter where you live, you’re feeling forced to do something you don’t want to do—and having to care for someone who doesn’t want to care for himself when you’d rather keep communication to a minimum.


Your best bet may be to look into getting a guardian or conservatorship for your former husband—and relieve yourself of the tough caretaking responsibility.


Contact the local probate court for the specifics of how to proceed. If you don’t know of anyone who might be suited to the task of caring for your former husband’s life and finances, the court may appoint a person to do the job. In cases of substance abusers, it is sometimes easier to have a guardian who is not a close friend or family member.