Family Robbing the Old – Just when they need help!

by francy Dickinson                   

Dear Francy: I have two brothers and one has POA for my mother. I take care of her in her home and he makes sures she has funds for all that she needs. She has had a stroke and needs full time care and when I went to check her into the center, I found out my brother had taken most of my mother’s money and gotten a reverse mortgage on her home. I am in shock, but more than that, I need to care for mom. Help?

No, I am not a lawyer and your financial problem is legal in nature and you need to find a lawyer to help you. If you do not have personal funds to find one, call social services, senior division, in your area and ask them for help they’ll guide you to a legal center that can help you. The POA has to be rescinded right away and that can happen immediately. This sounds very serious and I would think the state may even enter into this and adjust her Power of Attorney to you and your other brother to share and then figure out the financial problems. You may be in for a surprise, very few areas actually prosecute family members for stealing money from parents. But if I were you, I would try hard to get the law to deal with this as if her funds were stolen by a stranger. She is now in need of care and no money to pay for it. She saved all of her life, had a home and both she and your dad understood it would provide for them in their later years. This is a horrible thing that has happened to your family. But you are not alone.

How can I say this nicely…OK, I cann’t – there are kids that want money and could care less if they steal it from their parents. It happens so often it is shocking. Sons and daughters that say they are into their church and caring for parents and then it turns out they are robbing the parents. What can you do?

Very little, money spent is gone. Gone and will not magically come back. So take these ideas and think on them before you are faced with siblings or others that have ruined your own seniors life.

  • When you set up the Power of Attorney have more than one name on the bank and tell the bank that all parties have to agree for any expense over $500. That way the bank can take on some of the responsibility if money is just shifted from here to there, the red flags on the bank’s computer will at least come alive.
  • Power of Attorney can be health, or financial, or both – decide what is called for in each case. The sibling over seeing health care should have the health care directive and the Power of Attorney for health issues and a second name that is like an aunt or brother of the senior has the back up.  The person paying her bills needs to have a family member as back up and the family needs to review the bills each month or at least each quarter, even if your parent has little money…it has to be overseen by family. That keeps it all in the open.
  • Do not forget that siblings have spouses. Some times it’s the spouse that says she or he wants funds for all the time the family member spends on the senior. Or they want to do a loan or a charge card and have the parent pay for it because they give so much to the senior. You have no idea of what a spouse of your sibling is like with money so set up a review before you find out. This is a business not a family…your business is to give long term care to your parents, or aunts or other relatives and that means you set it up in the open with checks and balances.
  • The Power of Attorney is a very important document and should not be done lightly. That is why you need to have it in place and have it checked on a regular basis. It can save the parent from harm. Many times dementia/Alzheimer’s can take the seniors ability to spend money away. They will buy from the TV, catalogs and give money to people who call on the phone. This has to be protected and it takes all of you to over see this situation.
  • The family that has a lot of money can lose a lot of money. There has been a recent investment scam that has taken retirement funds from lots of families and really ruined their lives. There is little you can do about that sort of thing, but a sibling or a lawyer that is saying how they are going to oversee the investments for ageing folks with a nice retirement fund, they have to be watched and a report on a monthly basis has to be provided to review and I mean review. Every few months you need to call the bank or investment company and find out of all is in order. If you just let it all go and then a year later you find that someone has taken money you are out the money and the person who took it has probably taken from others. So keep on top of it.
  • By far, the problem is in the senior that has a few hundred or a thousand or two in the bank and owns a home free and clear. They are the ones that have very little and the family just assumes they are OK. But that is when no one is looking and suddenly two charge cards have thousands of dollars charged on them and it was not your parents who did that charging. Or the house has a loan out that has not been paid…it is sad stuff, but happens all the time.
  • Make sure you have the ability to check your parents funds. Just as you would not think twice of checking to see if you mom or dad were still driving safely by sitting in the drivers seat as they drive you to the grocery store. You need to check and see that mail is being delivered and they are opening it and checking on those bills. Once or twice a year you can do a credit check and get a report on their funds that would show if they had “secret” to you credit accounts taken out in their name. You also need to check on the automatic payments. One family found that the daughter had her mother paying her cable, phone, and light payment automatically out of her checking account each month.
  • Start from today – tell you family you need to be more aware of your own finances and you want to also be on top of your parent’s so you would appreciate seeing the accounts once a month and making sure all is in order. If they get upset, there may be a reason, so talk to your parents and let them know, you want a back up check. This day and age anyone can steal funds, not just siblings, other family members, legal and investment people and strangers that steal identities. So, do not be embarrassed about this family open policy, it should be just another part of the care that you give to aging family members to keep them safe.

Thanks for all you are doing for your mother, keep up your care and your chin…you have to be tenacious over this situation but it will pay off with your mother’s care being covered, once you get to the bottom of it. Please do check out my website and see all the information I have for families that give care to seniors

Thank you francy


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