New wife is stealing money from my dad

Q: How can I protect my Dad’s retirement money from his new wife. I have power of attorney. She took $4,000.00 from him before the marriage. Dad is mildly impaired. He forgets to eat and cannot manage money. I took over finances, so she took him from PA to West Virginia and forced him to marry her without my knowledge. What can I do to protect his finances? She is trying to withdraw his retirement money. (McMurray, PA)

A: Unless your father is mentally unable to manage his finances, which would allow a guardian to be appointed, you little at this point. He needs to see an attorney. A trust arrangement could be established for his assets that are not IRAs or Qualfied Plan Accounts. Please note that in a guardianship proceeding, a wife is generally given higher priority to be appointed than you so you would need to prove she is not qualified to serve as guardian of his estate. You will need to get him to an attorney if he is going to be helped-assuming he wants to be helped. You need to understand what a Power of Attorney is. It is simply an authorization from your dad to do things on his behalf. If it is a “durable” power of attorney, that power continues even if he later becomes disabled. The POA does NOT, however, remove his ability to make his own choices. So, if he WANTS to give his money to his new wife, he can. There is nothing you can do about it, unless you are appointed by the court to be his guardian. You describe him as “mildly” impaired. That is not likely to meet the legal standard to show that he needs a guardian. Talk to a lawyer. You can discuss how she is manipulating him and whether there is any wrongdoing there. Also, if he creates an irrevocable trust and makes you trustee, his wife would have to convince you to release the money. His financial estate gets even more complicated by the fact, that if you and he transfer assets out of his name, and he dies leaving her with little or no money, she can challenge by filing an election against will, which if successful, she could claim one-third of certain assets of his. This is a complicated situation and he should really see a lawyer.

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