Do I have the right to view my sister's POA and medical directive documents over my mother?

5 answers | Last updated: Oct 08, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My sister has durable power of attorney and the advanced health care/medical directive for my mother who has dementia. Do I have the right to view these documents?

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.

There is no law that gives you the right to view the documents.

But there are a couple of pulls at least as strong as the law: human curiosity and the need for siblings to pull together when an aging parent need support and care.

If you've already asked your sister to see the documents and she's refused to let you see them, concentrate why both of you feel the way you do.

The grand majority of such documents are worded the same: POAs give an agent only the authority to act "in the person's best interests" and advance directives specify the kind of care they wish to receive"”or give the agent the discretion to direct it. While these can be helpful and essential duties, they do not entitle the agent to take over another person's life or to get in the way of a relationship between a parent and another sibling.

If your sister has refused to let you see the documents, you might simply ask why"”emphasizing that as your mother's child, you are curious about her wishes.

However, if you feel that your sister is abusing her authority, consider taking the step of challenging her as agent in the local probate or superior court that oversees POAs. This is a fairly drastic step, however, and you might only want to follow up on it if you truly feel your mother's wishes are being ignored or that she is being neglected or abused in some way.

If you are feeling left out and resentful because your sister has been named as agent, consider offering ways you may be able to help your sister with her duties"”or to help your mother in other ways, such as by visiting or doing errands for her.

Community Answers

A fellow caregiver answered...

if the sibling hasnt been in touch with her mother in over 11 years do you really think that sibling has the right to ask anything about the care of her parent?

Main answered...

My Brother refused letting me see his POA over our Mother so I went to the Register of Deeds and got a copy of my Brother's POA,No problems at all getting a copy and no charge.

Barbara kate repa answered...

Dear Main:

Glad you had a painless success story when dealing with the POA. So nice to hear when things so smoothly.

But just a few words of warning to others who have written with some confusion: Only some states require that a power of attorney must be recorded with a title office or registrar of deeds--and even then, recording is required only for powers of attorney for finances that expressly grant someone the right to deal with real estate. Advance directives, which may include a power of attorney for healthcare, and powers of attorney for finances that do not grant powers over real estate need not be recorded.

Emily m. answered...

Hi anonymous, Thanks for your question. If you'd like, you can make a new Ask & Answer page with your question, here:

Take care! Emily | Community Manager