Elderly father’s step-daughter is taking financial advantage of him

Q: My father was just diagnosed with a terminal illness at 81 years of age. His step daughter “talked” him into giving her POA. What can we do? We all live hours away here in Pittsburgh. My sister is going up to take care of him, after she puts her affairs in order. She is also the executor of his will (as she understands it . We are worried she (step daughter) will change his living will. He feels intimidated by her (she lives close to him). Afraid she will change it and take the house away and put him on the streets. He lives near Tionesta, PA. What are our options? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: First, it is important to understand the difference between a Living Will and a Will. The living will is the “pull the Plug” document that contains a person’s wishes about being removed from life support. What you are probably concerned about is changing the Will which is the document that passes your father’s property at death. Generally, the Will cannot be changed by someone with a POA. The danger of the POA is that she can make the Will irrelevant by moving all of his assets out of his name. A POA agent is supposed to act in the best interests of the principal (your father) so you could take her to court if she takes all of the assets for her own benefit, but it is better to prevent a problem rather then attempt to solve it in a court proceeding. Talk to the step-daughter. At this point you have no evidence that she has bad intentions. She needs to understand her liability for abusing the POA. If talking won’t help, then you will most likely need to start a guardianship proceeding in court. Unless your father revokes the POA, a guardianship is the only way to get it rescinded. If you cannot work this out within the family, hire a lawyer to communicate with her.

If you feel like this issue relates to you, or a problem that you are experiencing, please contact me so that we can discuss your situation.