Sister who lives with elderly parents is mishandling their financial affairs.

I recently discovered the prop txs on house are over 5 years past due and put into a receivership with the State of WA DOR, and the water at house had been turned off for 14 months. Further, we discovered she had embezzled over $50k from a church she worked at in 1999. I need to protect my parents assets and well-being, but parents are unaware of or indifferent to this situation. My father has no interest in the financial affairs, and my mother simply refers to my sisters re: any financial or household issues. Sister keeps me at a distance, has refused my offers to physically help at house, but has repeatedly requested money from me. I would like to petition to have her removed from my parent's house and eliminate her responsibility for their financial affairs.

Seattle, WA -

Attorney Answers (4)

Elizabeth Rankin Powell

Elizabeth Rankin Powell

Estate Planning Attorney - Tacoma, WA
Answered

You might want to consider contacting Adult Protective Services to let them know what you have discovered. Financial abuse of vulnerable persons is never OK. Not paying the taxes is putting their home at risk, it is amazing that it has been five years. You might want to check for yourself to be sure the property is not being sold to pay the back taxes.

Also, WA has an action a non-lawyer can file on behalf of a vulnerable person. This is similar to Domestic Violence, but you can allege there are financial issues and ask the Court to intervene and they will. If your sister is keeping you away from your folks, that is alienation, especially when it is to your parent's detriment.

Your allegations regarding the taxes and the water service are very worrisome. Hope this helps.
The forms are on the forms page at courts.wa.gov Elizabeth Powell

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Chandra Melissa Lewnau

Chandra Melissa Lewnau

Estate Planning Attorney - Seattle, WA
Answered

This sounds like a very difficult and stressful situation you are going through. I'm not sure there are any easy answers. You should consult with an experienced elderlaw attorney who can help you determine what steps to take. From your question, it is not clear to me whether your parents are still competent to manage their own affairs or not. If negotiation doesn't work, You may be forced to seek a guardianship to appoint a responsible person to manage their finances, but this may be difficult if your parents are willing and able to oppose the action. Have you been to the house recently? If there has been no running water for 14 months, that is a serious issue and I would be concerned about what conditions your parents are living in. There are also protection of vulnerable adult statutes that you may want to consider if there is real abuse or neglect and you can't get any other resolution. You can view the AG's website for more information at http://www.atg.wa.gov/VulnerableAdultAbuse.aspx. You may also want to check with Senior Services or Senior Rights Assistance. They have many programs that may be of help to your parents.

This answer provides general legal information and should not be construed as legal advice to be applied to any... more
Kelly Scott Davis

Kelly Scott Davis

Elder Law Attorney - Cheyenne, WY
Answered

You haven't indicated under what authority your sister has acted. Is it a POA or a guardianship? If it is a POA and your parents are competent then they can revoke the power if they so choose. If they are unwilling because everything seems fine to them, you could report the matter to Adult Protective Services as elder abuse. They will investigate. Just be sure to tell them about the taxes and water. You may need to petition the court to be appointed as your parents' guardian/conservator. If your sister already has that authority, you could petition for an accounting and to have her removed. Any way you go you can expect her to fight, so be sure that you have an elder law attorney representing you.

James Marston Brown

James Marston Brown

Elder Law Attorney - Aberdeen, WA
Answered

Under the circumstances you may need to hire a lawyer to start a guardianship action. You can sign a petition for guardianship without asking to be named the guardian; in this case I would suggest you petition to have an independent Certified Professional Guardian ("CPG") appointed so that you cannot be accused of a self interest. Immediately upon filing the petition your lawyer will ask the court to appoint a Guardian ad Litem to investigate and report back to the court; such a report should reveal any financial or other abuse. Not all lawyers handle guardianships. Many members of the Washington Academy of Elder Law Attorneys handle guardianships; you can find such a lawyer at www.waela.org. Best of luck.

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