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Can my sister charge me for elder abuse?

Boothbay, ME |

I have been my mothers power of attorney as well as on a joint checking account with her for the past couple of years. She has now had to be placed in a dementia care home and my sister who was not involved with any of her care filed for and got guardianship. I then closed the joint accounts and sent the money to the care home. My sister got copies of bank statements and is now charging me with stealing my mothers money. My mom and I were ok with me spending what I needed as well as me using money from my private account to help her with bills. Since I was a legal joint owner on that checking account does my sister have a legal standing to accuse me?

Attorney Answers 4

  1. If you have documentation of your actions with regard to your mother's assets and those expenditures were made for her benefit, your sister's accusations will likely not go anywhere.

  2. Not only can she charge you with elder abuse, she has a reasonable chance to win. Depends whether your mother had capacity when she gave you authority and whether you used that authority appropriately. You should consider retaining your own lawyer to make your best case if she does file suit against you.

    Lawrence Friedman, Bridgewater, NJ. Certified as an Elder Law Attorney by the ABA approved National Elder Law Foundation, former Chair NJ State Bar Association Elder and Disabilities Law Section, Member Board of Consultors of NJSBA Real Property, Trusts & Estates Law Section, Vice Chair Special Needs Law Section of National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, and Master of Laws (LL.M.) in Taxation from N.Y.U. School of Law. Visit for articles and Q&A on elder law, special needs, wills, trusts, estates, and tax. Visit and subscribe for free timely updates to be delivered to your inbox. Information on both Avvo and does not constitute legal advice, as it is general in nature and may not apply to your situation or be subject to important changes. No attorney client relationship exists unless set forth in written engagement terms.

  3. Elder abuse and financial exploitation are serious charges. Unfortunately, the defense you will need to rely on, if she presses the matter, depends heavily on your ability to prove that your mother agreed that you could spend the money on yourself, and that she was competent when she did so. One motivation your sister may have in accusing you of "stealing" your mother's money is to avoid or reduce the Medicaid penalty imposed by gifts or transfers for less than fair value. You need an elder law attorney and you need one now.

    Responses provided on Avvo are for general informational purposes only, based upon the limited information that is provided, and do not constitute legal advice. As such you should consult with your own attorney for specific advice. No attorney/client relationship exists with Kelly S. Davis unless set forth in a written engagement letter. The Wyoming State Bar does not certify any attorney as a specialist or expert. Anyone considering a lawyer should independently investigate the lawyer's credentials and ability, and not rely upon advertisements or self-proclaimed expertise.

  4. Based on the limited facts i am hearing, the simple answer is that when you were acting as POA Agent, you had a fiduciary duty to act in your mom's best interest and document all your expenditure of her money. If you can did act in her best interest and can document all of her expenditures, your sister can allege all she wants, proving it is another matter.

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