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 aunt died without a will and left a property behind in Pennsylvania. She has only one living daughter in Florida. She hired a probate attorney who set up a trust to deal with the process because she is too busy to deal with it herself. There are many things in the house that are mine that my aunt had let me keep there for storage. I try to enter the home to retrieve them, but the trustee tells me I am not allowed on the premise. Is there a way I can be allowed inside? I am afraid that my valuable belongings will be inventoried along with my aunt’s things. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: A Trustee or Executor, has legal authority over real and personal property of a deceased person. They have a duty to preserve it and keep it in tact until it can be inventoried and accounted for and properly disbursed pursuant to the trust agreement or will. If you cannot work this out with the Trustee or Executor, you will have to hire a lawyer to file a petition in the Orphan’s Court in the county which has jurisdiction. This is likely to be where your aunt resided and died. If this property is indisputably yours, you should have no problem. If there is a question and you have no clear proof such as receipts or records, it may be difficult.
Q: There is a greedy trustee in charge of my mother’s finances who wants to sell all my mother’s properties. The trust states that I can live rent free at one specific property for as long as I wish as my mother wants me to retire in this home. My father built it and I grew up in it. My mother also wants to move in with me since she has dementia and can’t take care of herself. Also, the in-home care she has at her late husband’s house is costing a fortune and will deplete all her assets. The trustee fights me on getting rid of the expensive in-home care. Don’t I have a right to look out for my mother’s best interests and wishes as her daughter and POA of healthcare? The trustee acts like a dictator and expects us to do but why can’t we do what we know is the best thing for us as a family in spite of the trustee using intimidation to get her own way? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: You need someone with an unbiased and objective point of view to look at the entire situation. I would make an appointment with an estate attorney experienced with trusts and guardianship law in to have the POA and the trust agreement reviewed. In addition, the attorney needs to be apprised of all the facts. If what you say is correct, it may be possible under the language of the trust agreement for your mother to fire the Trustee and have another one appointed. If your mother is not competent, this can be done by an Agent under a POA if the language of the POA permits an Agent to do so. However, as you describe this as a medical POA, it is doubtful that it contains such language. In that is the case, you may need to be appointed as her Guardian. Again, you need a legal consultation.
Q: I am the caregiver and family trust trustee. I am the caregiver of my dad. He keeps wanting to give me money. I want him to hold on to all that he has, in order to help get him through his life so when I get paid it will be after my dad is gone. My question is, if everything ‘pours over’ to the trust and I am the successor trustee, am I in conflict of interest or doing something illegal if I will the trust after my dad is gone to get paid for the care giving?
A: It depends on how the trust is structured. Typically, a trustee does not get to choose trust beneficiaries or pay herself funds for caregiving. Discuss this with an elder law attorney who can review all the documents because no one can answer this competently without much more information.