What steps do I take to remove a distant relative as POA?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 15, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

I was assigned as POA by my grandfather and grandmother on my grandfather's death bed 3 years ago. I was at work one day and found out that another distant relative had become fast friends with my grandmother and pursuated my grandmother (who has dymentia) to give her POA and access to all of her bank accounts (worth millions). It has been 3 years since this happened. This person never had been around until my grandfather passed away and they work for the FBI and I have been afraid to take steps to regain my POA in the state of Virginia because I didn't want anyone to think I was just doing it for the money. I have observed this person remodeling my grandmother's home and draining bank accounts. I am afraid there will be nothing left for my grandmother's funeral and I am now ready to take action. Please help!!

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.

Sorry you are going through such a complicated situation.

It might help"”at least a little"”to do a little sleuthwork to find out the true legal status of things. Then at least you'll know where to begin.

First of all, know that POAs cease to exist when the person who finalized them dies. So your grandfather's money and property should have been distributed by now"”or your grandmother may have become owner of it by will or trust or power of law.

You seem to question the validity of the current POA. A person who is mentally competent is free have name anyone he or she wants as an agent in a POA. The competency requirement is measured when the document is finalized. So even if your now has severe dementia, a document she finalized years ago may still be legally effective. If not, you can question the validity of the appointment"”but know that you are likely in for a legal battle, in that case.

A person cannot "step back in" as an agent in a POA if another person has legally been appointed.

That's the law. But that written, there may be a few options available to you.

You could challenge the appointment of the agent, alleging your grandmother was legally incompetent when she finalized the document, as mentioned above. But know that the legal standard is fairly loose"”requiring only that a person must understand the document and what it means. Challenging the POA would require you to produce some fairly bulletproof historical evidence, such as written recollections by others, including tangible descriptions, that your mother was not cogent when she finalized the document years ago. You would likely have to hire a local lawyer for help. In mounting such a challenge

You could go to the court overseeing the POA"”likely the nearest superior or probate court--and ask that it require the agent named to file a yearly or periodic accounting of how and why funds are spent. This is a fairly common requirement in POAs"”and may already be in place. And it is especially common in cases involving large sums of money, such as the one you describe. But such an official order will help you greatly to be able to eyeball the reality of the document.

If you believe the distant relative who is currently managing your grandmother's affairs is unsuited for the job and that your grandmother is not able to manage things on her own, you could take the rather drastic step of going to court and asking that you or another person be appointed as her adult guardian or conservator, transferring the legal authority to do so.