Q: I took great care of my parents my entire life. My Mother recently passed. I am being kept away from my 87 year old father. He suffers from dementia. My Aunt & Uncle are controlling Dad for their financial gain. They are taking his money and acquiring assets. They took him to make a new will with their attorney. (Baldwin Twp., PA)
A: If you feel they are exerting undue influence on him, or he is incompetent to manage his own affairs, you could see a local attorney about petitioning the court to become his guardian. As a child, you would qualify, with other siblings if there any, to be a guardian. On the financial management side, your dad can do, or allow others to do, pretty much whatever he wants, irrespective of whether and to whom he has provided powers of attorney. This is true even if the results are adverse to his interests or to the interests of his children. You can attempt to involve the police or elder protective services, but it is generally hard for them to take action where the senior cannot lucidly express an objection. The most common course of action is to seek a guardianship with the probate court. The guardianship supercedes your father’s right to manage his own affairs, including others doing so with his permission or using a POA, and the guardian has the right to sue or pursue charges if money has been stolen. Ideally, you want to request that you be the conservator, but if there is significant friction the court may elect to appoint an independent conservator, usually a probate attorney. In general, courts do not take kindly to elder fraud, but non-appointment is a risk to consider.