Elder abuse and Check forgery. My mother is 94 and has reached the point where she can no longer take care of her financial affairs. 6 years ago my mother changed all her checking account to joint account with me so I can handle her finances if needed. My mother also sign the papers giving me Power of Attorney on her brokerage account, which also has an associated checking account. This past April my mother took a turn for the worst. She memory is shot and she can no longer make financial decisions, but she is very susceptible to manipulation and having people telling her to just sign this check. When I went through her legal papers I found a durable Power of Attorney that she had a lawyer draw up 17years ago giving me sole POA over her property and financial affairs. My sister and her son have stepped in and are now having mother sign checks which she has no recollection of even signing. I am 99.9% sure that my sister has even forged my mother's signature on checks because at least on one check the signer started to write what looks like my sister's name. My sister is making decisions and spending my mother's money when, as far as I can figure, she has no legal right to do. From all the legal papers I can see, it was and is my mother's wishes that I oversee her finances. One problem is that my sister makes no effort to make sound decisions when spending my mother's money. A month ago my sister and her son spent close to $6000 of my mother's money on plumbing repairs for a leak in the washer room. Last week they spent who knows how much on a new washer. The previous leak was coming from the washer and not the plumbing. My sister has hired a relative of one of her friends as a live in care worker. My sister has refused to provide me a copy of the employment contract, and I have seen close to ten checks made payable to this woman for her services. This last weekend when I visited my mother, my mother kept asking me who is paying this woman, but when I checked, all the checks have my mother's name on them. If my mother is physically signing the checks, my sister is having her sign checks she has no idea what she is signing. The Durable POA I found says I need two doctors to stated my mother is unable to handle her affairs. I have thought to take mom to two doctors to get this determination, but I have been told that doctors may not want to do that because of possible lawsuits. I need to take control of my mother's finances, so WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS? Do I confiscate all the checks since I am on all the accounts? I worry that my sister could simply take mother over to the bank and have her sign paperwork transferring all the account to her. Do I contact the legal authorities, such as SSA to investigate? Although I am pissed at my sister, taking legal action against her should probably be a last resort. My mother has never had a regular doctor, other than a dermatologist she sees annually. Can I just pick two random doctors who specialize in elderly care and will they do a competence evaluation? Since I am jointly on the checking accounts, and I am POA on the brokerage account where these checks are being written, what is my liability, since I know there is poor management of my mother's money occurring? Since I know they are having my mother sign checks she does not understand, since they are mis-managing my mother's accounts, since I am 99.9% sure at least some checks are forgeries, can the State authorities claim I am negligent for not stopping this? What do I do to stop this and protect my mother?
1 Answer from Attorneys
A Conservatorship would give the greatest control over your mother's finances. They are pretty expensive even if uncontested and can be very expensive if your sister tries to contest your appointment. If her Will nominates someone other than you to be her Conservator (some Wills include this language) then that person would have priority. You should consult with an attorney in your area.
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