Must I share my mom's finances with my brother?

2 answers | Last updated: Sep 14, 2010
A fellow caregiver asked...

I have been caring for my 87 year old very frail mother in my home for the past seven years. I am her only caregiver and have not had any assistance from anyone the entire time. I take care of all of her needs, prepare all of her meals, wash her clothing , change her bed linens and make sure her room is clean and inviting, arrange doctor and dentist appointments, etc. She is lucid and on top of things, and generally a pleasure to live with. Like many individuals that find themselves in the caregiving role, I never expected this role to last this length of time. Due to her serious health circumstances I have had to leave a career I enjoyed and devote my time to her (I am now 57). I have now entirely depleted my 401k, and my mom and I are now supported by a small pension my late father provided and her SSI (Supplemental Security Income) benefits as well as a line of credit I secured with my home. She had funds in a mutual account that are now depleted considerably due to the recent stock market collapse.

I have a brother who lives seven hundred miles away and he has had very limited contact with my mom since she moved out of state after my father died. Although it has been nine years since she moved, he still harbors resentment that she "left" him. During her first hospitalization seven years ago for a shattered pelvis, collarbone and severe concussion, he and his wife traveled to her town, accessed her computer and made copious notes regarding her finances. Inheritance issues have never been discussed with him, and he was not on great terms with my father when he died.

Subsequently, when it became apparent Mom could no longer care for herself, I invited her to move in with me. Now my brother is pressuring me to provide an accounting of my mother's assets. He demanded to know where "his inheritance" has gone and has been putting pressure on me to respond. My parents set up college accounts for both of his children when they were babies and they are now substantial.

I have nothing to say to him. I am the one who came to my mom's aid when she had no one else to turn to and have literally put my life on hold for seven years. I do not want this to escalate any further. I told myself when I took this responsibility that I would never feel guilty about abandoning my mom, and when she is gone I will hold my head high. I need some advice on how to deal with my brother and his outrageous behavior and still maintain civility. I do have power of attorney.

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.

Depending on what kind of power of attorney you have and where you live, your brother may or may not be legally entitled to an accounting from you. A minority of states impose that requirement on agents who hold a power of attorney for another person. If your brother wants to pursue a court-mandated accounting, let him do the research and legwork or pay and hire an attorney for help.

Whatever the future holds, you can make your life easier by keeping or reconstructing a solid accounting of your income and expenses.

But it sounds as if the bigger problem is that there are hurt feelings and anger on both sides of the aisle in your family: You may feel a little oppressed and resentful and he may feel as if you’re hiding the ball—or in this case, the money—from him. You are wise to want to smooth over these difficulties before it’s too late. But you may not be able to do it alone.

If you are serious about getting to the heart of the angst between you and your brother and he is willing to cooperate, consider getting help from a family counselor—more difficult to arrange since you live many miles apart, but not impossible. You might also get help from a family mediator—an impartial third person who can help you work out a solution that is as pleasing to both you and your brother as possible.

If neither of these possibilities seems likely, consider the slightly riskier approach of calling in an impartial family friend to be present while you and your brother talk. It’s amazing what a little soul-bearing can do—and doing it in the presence of a third person can often have a calming and civilizing effect.

Community Answers

A fellow caregiver answered...

I have no interest in making this very difficult situation acceptable to him.  

The fact of the matter is that i have completely mortgaged my future to provide a home for mom.  Personally and financially.

As I mentioned in my previous question I have not had a day off in over 7 years. He and his wife have never offered or arranged to give me several days off.  When I had to have serious eye surgery five years ago and requested their assistance I was told in no uncertain terms that it was my problem and there would be no help provided by them.

I am finally at peace with this situation after several years of personal turmoil and anger. I have attempted to discuss this situation with him many times, but it  always comes back to money.  I am not getting rich here, I still; have a mortgage, in fact I now have two.  I feel that he has no respect for me or my mother. 

Regarding the Power of Attorney that I hold: my brother lives in California and my mother and I live in Oregon. I have absolutly so interest in giving him an accounting of mom and my finances.  My mother has told him this to him numerous times.  Legally what am I obligated to provide to hm?