Q: There are multiple issues. My mother lives in the District of Columbia and has serious mental health issues, but she chose me as her Personal Representative in her will many years ago. I believe she is in the early to middle stages of dementia and believes I am her enemy, so she may designate someone else besides me to be her Power of Attorney in general and for health care. If she does this, does this action trump me as her Personal Representative in her will? If so, will I need to apply for guardianship and conservatorship if this happens as she continues to mentality deteriorate? Right now, she has some capacity, but has demonstrated that she cannot take of herself. She is a hoarder. She is not able to wash her clothes. She has apathy concerning her hygiene and living in a clean and sanitary environment, and she will not allow anyone into her house to assist her. At some point, I know that I will need an attorney, but I am not sure when to do this and how to help her. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: An executor of a will handles the affairs and assets of a person after that person has died. The executor has no such power prior to the death. An agent on a power of attorney has power to act on behalf of a principal while the principal is alive but has no such power after the death. The agent on a power of attorney must act in the best interest of principal and in accordance with the powers specified in power of attorney document. My advice would be to meet with an elder law attorney and have your mother assessed for competency. You can also ask her physician to give you such opinion. If deemed competent, she can execute a power of attorney in which an agent is designated to act on her behalf. If not deemed to be competent, she cannot execute a power of attorney. If there is no power of attorney in place and she continues to deteriorate, you or another family member may have to petition the court to become her guardian. This will require the assistance of an attorney.