How can I get legal control over my step-dad if he won't sign power of attorney forms?

2 answers | Last updated: Sep 21, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

my mother recently passed away and she was the guardian for my step dad. My step dad has schizophrenia and is begining to show signs of dementia. Is there any way to file for power of attorney so thatg i am able to take4 care of everything that needs to be done? he recieved everything when my mother died but has no legal overseer after her passing. i moved in to help him with bills and general living but he flips moods and personalities daily. i need his signature for things and he just refuses to sign them even though refusing to sign will cost him to lose all his and my mothers stuff. if not power of attorney is there anything that i can do to A) gain access to medical files for him B)gain some type of control for power to take care of him? Also he was married to my mom for 22 years and has no kids of his own. i am all that he has left but he keeps makin it difficult to take proper care of him if i cannot access bank accounts and medical records. i do not want to just leave him there to lose everything and eventually cause his condition to worsen.

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.

For you to be named as your father's agent in a power of attorney, it would be necessary for him to complete and sign the POA paperwork"”and to have the capacity to know the nature of the document and what it means.

That capacity is measured rather trickily under the law"”that is, at the moment the document is signed and finalized. So some people such as your father whose mental acuity seems to come and go are still capable of finalizing legal POAs.

However, if your father simply refuses to sign any type of document and is suspicious of all of them, then it will not be possible to put a POA into place. You may try again with a calm and simple explanation of what the document does, reassuring him that you are trying to help out, not trying to take over his whole life.

Other options, such as becoming a joint account holder or an authorized signator on his bank account, or getting a waiver of access to your father's medical files would also require that he signs and understands paperwork authorizing these things.

If this is not possible, then your only other option may be to secure a guardianship or conservatorship over him. This is a rather drastic step, which would require you to convince a judge that your father needs this kind of supervision and is incapable of making these decisions on his own. Your father would also have the right to voice his disagreement, if he is able.

You can find out all details about this arrangement at the "Adult Guardianship and Conservatorship section of at

Community Answers

3generations answered...

The expert answer is great, and covers all the bases. Obtaining guardianship (over the person) and conservatorship (over the property) will allow you to take care of your stepfather completely - from bills to medical issues. But it's not easy, and shouldn't be - taking away someone's rights to make decisions about their own life is a serious matter. We just went through the court process and got guardianship/conservatorship of my father. If you do this, you may want to first consult an attorney specializing in elder law, as the process is different in different states. In KY, where we live, the evidence is heard by a jury for a decision, and the Commonwealth's Attorney presents the case for guardianship. Another attorney was appointed to represent our father's interests. You'll likely have to prove by expert testimony that your stepfather is unable to function and is in physical danger unless a guardian is appointed. Good luck, and God bless you.