Q: My mom has fallen ill. They put her in a coma. How can I take charge of her bills to keep her house going? There is no living will or power of attorney. She receives social security and pension checks. (Ligonier, PA)
A: If she is not competent to sign a POA, your only recourse is filing to be her guardianship. You should review all the details with an attorney.
Q: I am permanent guardian of the person and estate for a 50-year-old adult son with mental illness. However, he can and has acted independently to get jobs and credit cards. It has become almost impossible to track his spending and I question if he is legally incapacitated. At I minimum I cannot handle the guardianship any more. I also receive no compensation for it. He is no longer under the auspices of the mental health system but is in jail with a potential mental health commitment for competency. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: If you have been appointed guardian of his person and estate, you can petition the court to appoint a successor guardian. Unfortunately, you will need an attorney to do this. You might be able to find an agency to take over but without knowing more, I am not sure what agency would accept him for services. If an agency would step in, they may be able to handle petitioning the court to have you removed and replaced. The interest of an agency will increase if he is collecting disability or if there is some other source of income for him.
Q: What form would I use to request outpatient treatment for my father who is incompetent?
A: More information is needed to fully advise you. However, most people who need to act on behalf of another person, require a Power of Attorney. However, if the person is not competent to sign one, this will not work. In that situation you may need to become his legal guardian through a court proceeding. If a service provider will act on your request without either because you are next of kin, you may not need to be guardian for that specific purpose. Ultimately however, you may need to be appointed as his guardian.
Q: I’m in Pittsburgh, my brother is in Nashville. My brother had end stage cirrhosis of the liver and had to have emergency surgery that left him with a permanent ileostomy. He detoxed at the hospital, but he is a chronic alcoholic. His mind is confused, and he is in denial about his entire situation. He has discharged himself several times against doctor’s orders and is in very grave health. He needs to be admitted to the hospital and stay there for medical care. The hospital told me they do not do any type of psychiatric evaluations. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: You need a lawyer who practices in Davidson County, Tennessee. An attorney who does hospital visits would be great. If you brother is competent and willing, the attorney can prepare a POA for your brother to sign. If your brother is not competent to sign documents, the attorney can advise you on the next step which would either using the mental health system to have your brother committed if he is a danger to himself or others, or if necessary, filing a petition in court for you to become his guardian. You really do need an attorney in that location. You can call the county Bar Association to see if they have a lawyer referral program. Good luck with your situation.
Q: This organization along with the Department of Aging said they were guardians and had a POA over my husband. They said he was financially abused which was untrue. No paperwork, nothing in courthouse. So, what do I do since they probably fudged the taking of him and placing him in a nursing home? He wants to come home and says that those people do not even come to visit him. The one organization which is led by these women who become guardians for a living. They take his money each month from social security. What should I do? (Export, PA)
A: This didn’t happen overnight. It seems you are just becoming aware of this which is odd. You should have been contacted originally when he was taken in to care and served with the guardianship petition and notified of the hearing. Normally, no one can fudge court orders, stick a person in a nursing home and take their money. You need to investigate the situation. You can go to the county probate clerk’s office and look at the file. If there is in fact an appointment of a guardian, there should be a petition and order inside the file. If you don’t understand the documents, you might be able to get a probate clerk to help you, but they cannot give you legal advice. At least from the file you can find out who in fact the appointed guardian is and who the attorney appointed by the court to represent your husband is. You can then investigate matters further. If you qualify to be his guardian, you can hire a lawyer to petition the court on your behalf.
Q: My mom asked the court if she could be a guardian over her husband because he was taking money out of the bank and misplacing it. He was making bad buying decisions etc. He was also very sick at the time and needed to seek medical attention, but we were unable to get him to go to the hospital. He is now staying in the basement of my mom’s house and we all take care of him. She was granted guardian over my dad but then she does not like the fact that she has to ask the court every time she has to make decisions for my dad, such as paying for certain things for him, writing end of the year reports, etc. They have been married for almost 60 years and she feels like she should not have to asked permission for every little thing. How can she get the court ordered guardianship reversed? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: If a person does not want or cannot serve as a Guardian, a substitute or successor Guardian can be appointed. I assume a lawyer assisted your mother in being appointed Guardian, so my advice would be to contact that lawyer and ask if he can file a Petition for Successor Guardian.
Q: My aunt has Alzheimer’s and has been found mentally unfit. I have been appointed plenary guardian by the court. She is in a nursing home. Her son-in-law had authority to sign checks on her account, but no power of attorney or other authority. He sought to have the Public Administrator appointed as her guardian. I intervened, as she is my aunt and I am willing to act on her behalf, and I was appointed plenary guardian of her person and estate. I have Letters of Appointment. I call to Social Security to ask that her monthly check be moved into a new checking account. I was met with much resistance, and I was told that my paperwork was meaningless. How to proceed? (Bulger, PA)
A: Social Security does not have to deposit the check into your guardian account. The Social Security Administration has its own system which consists of appointed representative payees who receive payments for recipients. It has its own separate application process to become a representative payee. Unfortunately, you must apply. The fact that you are a relative and were appointed by the court as a Guardian will not hurt.
Q: My mother, who is very ill would like to hire a family member as a live-in caregiver. Her husband does not want them there. Does he have the right to deny her a live-in caregiver? (Carrick, PA)
A: These are complicated situations. If your mother’s husband is a sole owner or owns the house with your mother, he can bar you or a caregiver from entry. If you feel your mother is being neglected or abused, you can call the Department of Aging of Allegheny County and see if they will investigate. If her husband becomes more obstinate, you may want to consider filing in court to be her guardian. I recommend a consultation with an elder law attorney.
Q: A month ago, my mother, an incredibly healthy, independent 76 yr. old had a stroke and a heart attack. She lived but missed the critical window to dissolve a blood clot. Since the stroke, she has been on a host of medications which she and I both believe are causing her to be very sick, confused, unable to communicate clearly, and above all, decline rapidly. I’m with my mom every day. She confides in me and I know what she wants. Recently, while in Kaiser ER, she appointed me to make all decisions for her care should she become incapacitated. I signed the paper there and at her nursing facility when she first got there. The very next day, I was shocked to bump into her old friend at this nursing facility, who said she had just signed the same papers there and is now her new POA! My mom does NOT want this! A former trustee in my mom’s original will, she was removed last year when my mom modified the will. She immediately began to insist I hand over my mom’s checkbooks, alarm code, house keys, credit cards, & has since locked me out of the house! We don’t agree on ANYTHING about Mom’s plan of care. My mom wants to come home, but she won’t let her! Please help? (Scott Twp., PA)
A: This is a terrible situation, and you need legal counsel. If you were appointed Guardian, the guardianship would trump the POA. As a child, you would have standing to be her Guardian, than an “old friend”, unless you are not fit by state law to be Guardian. You will need to consult with an attorney. If your attorney can examine the POA this old friend has, he can determine if it is compliant with PA state law as well as advise you on filing to be her guardian. Regarding being locked out of the home, were you living there? If so, the old friend must follow the PA Landlord Tenant Act and give you appropriate notice. That will at least give you a month or two in the home.
Q: My sister filed a petition for conservatorship of my mom last October without discussing it with any family members. She lives in Georgia and I live with my mom in PA. My mom has no access to any of her funds and my sister stopped sending money 6 months ago. My mom has moderate dementia and has good days where she is alert and days where she is sleepy and not as clear. She receives 2k a month from her pension and about 3k from rental property. Because of the conservatorship she has access to none of it. I had planned on taking my mom to the hearing back in December because the court docs said she must be present, but my sister told me that she didn’t have to be there, and I trusted that, so we didn’t attend. Now I’m understanding that would have been the time my mom’s needs and wants could have been heard. I’m not working and live with my mom and have taken care of her for 4 years. For the past 6 months my mom and I have asked for some financial help from my sister who has control of the estate and have been denied or told that she needs to talk it over with the attorney. I don’t think I even have an option to get an attorney for my mom because she can’t access funds to pay. (Washington, PA
A: I will assume, your sister was appointed in PA and just happens to live in GA. The larger picture is that your sister is acting as conservator or guardian of your mother and according to you is not supporting her sufficiently. This requires the conservator appointment to be questioned. I suggest you speak with a local elder law attorney or attorney who handles guardianship law to advise on what your options would be. If it is readily provable that your sister is not acting in your mother’s best interest and not fulfilling her fiduciary duty as guardian, you may have legal grounds to for her to be removed as Guardian you appointed. The fact that she lives in GA raises questions as to how she closely she can care for your mother. I view your payment as caretaker as less of a problem. I would keep an itemized daily account of everything you do and keep expense receipts. The attorney can provide more advice on what records you need to establish for your services. If you keep a detailed invoice, you can submit it to the conservator. If she will not pay, that is another matter.