If something happened to my step-mother, could my step-brother sell dad's house as his power of attorney?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 20, 2016
Lizb asked...

My father has given his power of attorney to my step mother's son. My step mother has alzeimers and is not doing well but still living at home with my father.

Here's the question. If something happened to her, her son, with the POA, could sell my dad's home, take all his money from the bank, etc with that POA. What can we do? We have talked to him and he just says he wants to leave it alone -- that my brother will allegedly have the POA for him if something happened to her, which cannot be true. He will not allow us to see a copy.

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.

A person authorized to act on another's behalf under a power of attorney only has the power to act in that person's best interests"”not to empty a bank account and sell a house if that move doesn't make sense for the homeowner. That bit of knowledge alone may help assure you that the stepmother's son is not free to loot and pillage at will.

It sounds as if you have talked directly with the son, and that he has tied to reassure you, but you remain somehow unconvinced that that he would be acting on the up and up. It might be worth your while to have another conversation"”this time very specific about what has you concerned. Do you fear he will sell the family home? Burn through money that might have been your inheritance? Talking over these concerns"”ideally, with your father present"”may be the best and only way to get a firm idea of what the financial needs may be and what property may be available to meet them.

If your biggest concern is about the most valuable property"”most likely the home"”then you can do some sleuthwork on your end to see how the title is held. Simply ask at the nearest title company or deeds office. If the property is held jointly by your father and stepmother, disposing of it would require your father's assent.

Finally, if the stepson does take over as his mother's agent, you can demand that he file a periodical accounting"”commonly, every six months or a year"”keeping a running tally of how all funds were spent. Some powers of attorney have this condition built it. Some agents agree to it voluntarily. Sometimes, relatives or other concerned individuals go to court"”usually, the nearest probate or superior court"”and demand that a judge impose the requirement.