Q: My mother became POA of a neighbor as someone was taking advantage of the neighbor and my mother felt empathetic for this woman who was her friend. The woman has since had a change in her health and is now living in a skilled nursing facility with dementia. My mother has fallen ill herself now and is unable to serve this woman as POA and she would like to remove herself from POA. Is this possible? (Pleasant Hills, PA)
A: Yes, of course. Most Power of Attorney documents contain language that state that the within power of attorney can be revoked in writing. It would be prudent for her to write a letter in which she states that she can no longer serve as Agent for her friend. The letter should be served on her friend, the facility in which she resides and any other medical provider who may have relied on the document in the past.
Q: I don’t know what I need to do with lacking only about 10 payments to paying home off. When I got sick about 7 years ago my daughter took care of me. Now she gave her job up about 2 to 3 years ago when I needed her all the time. A friend said maybe a trust? I just am not sure what or if anything I can do I have my state retirement, survivor’s benefits and social security saved. (Ohio Twp., PA)
A: I am not getting everything needed to be known to answer this question so I urge you to consult with an estate or elder law attorney who can get all the facts. Of course, you can have an attorney draft a POA which authorizes your daughter to act on your behalf. If you may need Medicaid funding in the future you may be able to shelter some of your assets and take advantage or caretaker contracts and a hardship exclusion to save the home.
Q: Our dad was hospitalized with a stroke and pneumonia, and he has a will. My sister and I knew we were getting this property in the will, but the will was 125 miles away and we did not want at that point to leave his side for that length of time to see what the rest of the will read for fear of him dying before we returned. He could not speak because of the stroke so we had to ask questions and he would answer yes or no by hand squeezes. He instructed us to transfer his house through power of attorney to our joint names and we did. It turned out we probably should not have, because I think he was not thinking properly at that point do to drugs and the stroke, and my sister and I were grief stricken and tired from being by his side until he died. Since we were getting the house by will anyway, in hind sight it did not seem to make any sense to transfer it, so we figured he knew something we did not. But, I do not think he was thinking right at that time. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: Assuming the POA authorized you to transfer real estate or make gifts to yourselves, and even if it didn’t, if no other family members are complaining or you haven’t violated state law, you should be OK. No harm, no foul. If, on the other hand, you transferred his real estate to yourselves with the POA when other family members were to inherit the real estate through the will, there might be a concern. In PA, a transfer in anticipation of death (within 1 year) will subject the entire value of the property transferred to inheritance tax with a $3000.00 exclusion. The only other concern would be Medicaid. If your father was receiving Medicaid benefits, they may have a claim against his estate. If you transferred property out of his estate, Medicaid will have a claim against the real estate as part of his estate as it was transferred in anticipation of his death. If you did this transfer with knowledge of his Medicaid status, you have committed Medicaid fraud but will probably not be prosecuted criminally if the house is still in your name.
Q: My mother signed a durable POA and a health directive just six weeks before two Drs declared her incompetent in 2016. Her agents are also her trustees. Isn’t her trust now irrevocable? These two, my siblings stuck her in a home against her wishes prematurely and are now abusing their responsibility, claiming they can as POA make trust changes and do not have to give an accounting either. Mom also signed on the directive that the agents can’t be questioned by anyone. This is horrible. Her symptoms are mild. They are acting directly against her wishes. Her trusted attorney I used to talk to has passed. I am prohibited from acting as trustee, but I have two petitions filed in pro per. I think the facility she is in is not properly licensed for her health needs. Can I file ex parte for a guardianship just related to her health and placement? I can’t afford an attorney. They have trust funds for theirs. (Oil City, PA)
A: How was she declared incompetent in 2016 and now just has mild dementia? Normally it is reversed. However, mild dementia normally does not render someone incompetent to make decisions that affect their life and to sign important documents. I would consult with her physician as to whether she is now competent. If she is competent, she can act on her own, and revoke the POA in writing. Once done, she can fire the two Agents on the POA, your siblings. As to whether the POA allowed your siblings to make changes to a trust, that is dictated by the language of the POA. Under the new POA statute, effective 1/1/2015, that power must be specifically granted in the POA document-the power to alter trusts. Even if the POA was written prior to the new statute and therefore grandfathered in, the POA should have some language authorizing such power. There are many issues here and I strongly suggest you seek an attorney to consult with. If the attorney advises that your actions may have merit in court, the attorney may be able to be paid from your mother’s funds.
Q: My brother is in and nursing home and has schizoaffective disorder and hypertension. Can I obtain a power of attorney over him? (West Mifflin, PA)
A: Seek the opinion of his physician as to whether or not he is competent to sign a Power of Attorney. He may or may not be even with his diagnosis.
Q: I went to a hospital to have surgery and everything thing went wrong. That was three years ago. I gave my wife a durable power of attorney before the surgery. I was in ICU for several month. In January of 2018 my wife and I separated, and she stuck me in a nursing home. I became paralyzed at the hospital three years ago. While in the nursing home my brother and I were informed that when my mom died there was life insurance. My brother received his share. My wife took mine and cashed it saying she had power of attorney. At the time of the surgery things were not clear. The past two years I’ve been making my own decisions. Was she right or did she forge my name? (Jefferson Hills, PA)
A: If someone is competent to act on their own, they still can and the person holding the POA as Agent must defer to them. If the Agent continues to act against the wishes of the Principal, the Principal can revoke the POA. In your situation, if you were incompetent and your wife was acting under a legal POA signed by you which appointed her as Agent, then she can act on your behalf. The question is whether the POA specifically allowed her to exercise control over and keep for her own, insurance proceeds payable to you, assuming that is what she did. The basis of every POA is that the Agent must act in the best interest of the Principal and only act within the limitations of the written Power of Attorney. If this POA was drafted after January 1, 2015 when the new POA statute came into effect, the document must clearly state that she is authorized to liquidate insurance proceeds and make a gift to herself, assuming that is what she did. I suggest you gather documents such as the POA and the insurance records and consult with an attorney regarding whether the POA allowed your wife to do what she did.
Q: My sister supposedly has a Power of Attorney from my mother. I have never seen any papers and my daughter and myself have been in the house for 20 years. We were taking care of her before my sister put her in a nursing home. She is also signing my mother’s name on checks and papers. (Dorseyville, PA)
A: She is only authorized to perform acts on behalf of your mother that are authorized by the Power of Attorney. In order to determine this, demand to see the POA. If she will not share it with you, call Adult Protective Services and tell them your concerns.
Q: My sister will NOT talk to me and behind my back put my mom in a nursing home. My sister went got POA health and financial from my mom. Now she wants me to pay half of all debts. My mom told me she put me and my sister as beneficiaries on her life insurance policies. Now that my sister is POA can she remove me as beneficiaries from those polices and not tell me? (Jefferson Hills, PA)
A: Under the new enactments to the Power of Attorney statute, effective January 1, 2015, an Agent can only change beneficiaries on a life insurance policy if specifically granted that power in the “Powers” section of the Power of Attorney document. Under the prior Power of Attorney Act, effective in the year 2000, an Agent may be able to do this if there is similar language giving such authority. Your question depends on when the document was signed and how it was drafted. You should get a copy and consult with a lawyer.
Q: My brother moved in with our mother to help take care of her 17mths ago. He didn’t have to pay any bills, grocery’s or maintenance in this time-period. She’s now in a nursing home. He said he can no longer care for her. Now he refuses to pay rent or help with the bills for the nursing home. He is living in our mother’s home and driving her car. He verbally said he would pay $500 monthly. I supplied him with deposit slips for this money to go directly into our mothers account to help pay for the nursing home. Can I evict him being I have power of attorney over our mothers estate? (Penn Hills, PA)
A: If your mother is mentally competent and wants your brother to stay in her home and drive her car, that is her decision, not yours. If she is incompetent, you can act in her best interest, if your POA complies with state law and permits you to manage her real estate. If so, you may have to evict him through court since he has been living there so long. You would start this process at a District Justice office. If your mother is receiving funding such as Medicaid, rental payments to her may disqualify her. I would review all the details with an attorney.
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.