We all know that death and taxes are inevitable. But how many of us think about family and their assumed sense of entitlement when these inevitable items cross paths? Specifically when trying to get things done in the position of Power of Attorney for a family member.
I have a client that quit his professional career to care for his ailing parents. He then became the sole emotional and physical support person for his mother after the death of his father. The mother died about a year ago, and there was a Will.
Disputes Between Siblings
The Will indicated the estate was to be split between the two siblings. But that wasn’t enough for the sister even though she hadn’t seen or communicated with her mother or brother for over 8 years! She believed she was entitled to more than half.
How did she proceed to try and determine this additional amount she felt was hers? She hired a lawyer and is taking her brother and the Estate to court. Her main issue wasn’t about what was in the Will, but rather about the money her brother had control over while his mother was alive. Finances she believes were used for her brother’s personal use, and therefore reduced the value of the Estate.
Problems with Paying for Bills in Cash
The brother had Power of Attorney for both parents, and was also a signing authority on all the bank accounts and investments. There were caregivers that were on payroll and paid by cheque, and others that were paid cash for being there on weekends. Since the mother was still in her own home there were; groceries to buy, payments to the cleaning lady, lawn care and snow removal, hair dresser appointments, donations to her favorite charities, hundreds of documented doctor appointments that also created gas and parking expenses. And the list goes on.
The problem that developed was that most of the expenses listed above were paid for in cash. If there had been a receipt at the time of purchase, most of those have disappeared or were discarded since then. Who would have thought there was any need to keep them? Certainly not my client, or just about anyone else who could be in the same position.
There are now two siblings, each with a lawyer, requiring me to construct and supply the financial dealings over numerous years. I won’t get into the gory and time consuming details but my heart goes out to the brother that pretty much gave up his life for 8 years, has a reduced pension, still mourns the loss of his parents and has to fight to defend decisions he made years ago.
My Words of Wisdom: Keep Track of Every Nickel
My words of wisdom to you – whether you are a legal Power of Attorney, or just helping out a family member or friend – if you have access to their funds keep track of every nickel you spend. It could be a notebook, spreadsheet or bookkeeping software – keep detailed records and copies of all receipts. Always get receipts, especially for anything paid for in cash. Take a picture of the receipt with your phone if necessary.
Greed, sense of entitlement and revenge can sometimes be a by-product of those you least expect it from. While caring for someone financially you also have to protect yourself.
If you have experienced this personally, or know someone who has, please share the story with me. The more we can make others aware of the risks and how to mitigate them, they in turn can carry-on with the responsibilities others are depending on.
Don’t leave these important decisions to chance. Carefully select the person who will treat your property or your Estate in the way you want and should expect.
As always, I welcome your feedback. Share your experiences with my readers.
Until next time,