Q: I own a house in joint tenancy with my two older sisters. They live in the house and I do not. One has had two strokes and doesn’t really know what’s going on, and the other is making very poor financial decisions, is very angry, forgetful, and talks to herself. I fear she may have dementia but I don’t know how to get her to submit to an exam by a specialist. Now they have a new “friend” to whom they have given power of attorney, and who helped them create a will naming her as a beneficiary. A medical caregiver in the house told me she saw one of my sisters give this “friend” the deed to the house. They are writing her checks for thousands of dollars. This has all happened in the course of three months. The only asset is the house, and they have income from their pensions. I am now staying with them because I feared their friend was planning to move in. How do I keep the house safe, and how do I get rid of the friend? My sisters think she’s wonderful because she drives them and has helped them clean up their house, but she is poisoning their relationship with me which has been good until now. (Allison Park, PA)
A: You raise some concerns here which touch on elder abuse and financial exploitation. You may want to contact adult protective services to do a home visit and assessment. You should ask the friend to allow you to examine the POA and any other documents your sisters have signed. Make copies if you can. You will also benefit from consulting with an attorney about the suspected financial exploitation and what would be involved if you wish to become their guardian. As far as the deed, you would need to sign the deed in order to transfer ownership to anyone, assuming the property is held as joint tenants with right of survivor.