Legal Guide

Siblings Abusing Power of Attorney... What Can I Do?

A Power of Attorney is a very serious legal document. Sometimes only one sibling will be named as a Power of Attorney. But what if things go wrong? If you have siblings abusing Power of Attorney, you may be wondering, “what can I do?”

A Power of Attorney gives someone the right to act in your stead should you be incapacitated - should you be unable to look after your affairs. This person is referred to as the “principal.” There are two common types of Power of Attorney - financial and medical 

People will often only name one person as a Power of Attorney. This can cause conflict if a parent names only one sibling. If you are named Power of Attorney, you should consider the following to avoid conflict:

Your parent’s privacy - They still have a right to privacy after signing a Power of Attorney, including who knows they have signed a Power of Attorney. 

Your siblings should have access - If you are given Power of Attorney, you shouldn’t bar your siblings from seeing your parents unless it is detrimental to their health.

Your parents can revoke a Power of Attorney - Assuming they are healthy enough, your parents can withdraw a previously given Power of Attorney. 

Siblings abusing Power of Attorney? How do you override it?

What if you don’t have a Power of Attorney? What if your parent’s entrusted your siblings and you aren’t happy with their actions? How do you override this? Of course, you can, but it’s not a decision to take lightly.

If you decide it’s necessary, here are the steps to follow:

Speak to your parents or whoever signed the Power of Attorney  - If you have concerns, you should first speak to whoever signed the Power of Attorney. Share with them your concerns and see if they will revoke them and change them. 

Speak to your sibling - If your parent cannot revoke the Power of Attorney for any reason, the next person to speak to is your sibling.  Tell them what your concerns are and see if they will change. 

Prepare for Court - If your parent won’t revoke the power of attorney or your sibling won’t change their behaviour, it may be time to prepare to go to Court and get a judge to set aside the Power of Attorney. 

Siblings Abusing Power of Attorney... What Happens If We Get To Court?

As sad as it may be, it’s possible you may not be able to avoid Court. If you do end up in Court, here’s what you may be asked to prove:

  • That your sibling has acted inappropriately
  • That your parent was not of sound mind when signing the Power of Attorney

Worried about siblings abusing Power of Attorney - what to look out for?

A Power of Attorney gives someone a lot of authority. Unfortunately, sometimes this authority ends up being abused - either deliberately or sometimes, by mistake. If you are worried that things are being abused, here’s what you should be watching out for. 

Use of Bank Accounts - A Power of Attorney may allow your sibling to make financial decisions for your parents. However, it doesn’t permit them to use this bank account for their bills or their expenses. Just because they have control of a budget doesn’t make it their own play thing. 

Conflict of Interest - Maybe your parents are moving house, and their property needs to be sold. What happens if your sibling wants to move into the house that your parents owned? If they tried to benefit themselves financially, this could lead to a conflict of interest.

These are just two examples of siblings abusing Power of Attorney. There are others. 

If your parents talk to you and your siblings before assigning Power of Attorney, you could all consider some things so that conflict is avoided. For example, they could appoint multiple siblings to Power of Attorney, or appoint a professional 3rd party. 

Siblings abusing Power of Attorney is something you want to avoid if at all possible. If the battle escalates out of control, it will end up costing the Estate thousands, if not tens of thousands, of dollars. 

If conflict happens and you are involved, try having conversations early to see if you can resolve the issues. If this doesn’t happen, there are still options. If not entered into correctly, a Power of Attorney can be challenged if mediation has been tried but has not been successful. 

This article was sponsored by Heban, Murphree & Lewandowski, LLC, a probate law firm in Ohio with vast experience in power of attorney abuse cases.

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