my mother-in-law l(MIL) lives with my sister-in-law. My husband is chronically ill but when he has good days, he sees his mother (when his sister okays it), we lived in Seattle in 1995-97 when my MIL called to say she was sending paperwork to put my husband on the house with his sister. She called the next day and said it was too complicated to send the paperwork but don't worry, "you will get 1/2 of the house and your sister knows it. She also told my husband and me on 2 different occasions that he was getting 1/2 the house. The house was 1/2 my mother-in-laws and 1/2 my sister-in-law's (SIL). SIL kept calling and talking about the house sale and said that she signed her mother's name on the papers. How can we find out who has POA and if the sale was legal.
Attorney Hunter's answer is pretty thorough. I am writing, however, to make sure that you understand one other issue of possible concern:
Asuming that the power of attorney is valid and your mother-in-law granted your sister-in-law authority under the power of attorney to sell her interest in real estate, and assuming further that the house was in joint names with your mother-in-law and sister-in-law, one-half of the net proceeds of sale should have been paid to your mother-in-law. Your sister-in-law, as agent for your mother-in-law under the power of attorney, has the legal duty to deposit the moneys your mother-in-law was entitled to receive from the sale into a separate account that is your mother-in-law's separate money. Your sister-in-law also has the legal duty as agent under the power of attprney to spend the money received by youir mother-in-law for your mother-in-law's sole benefit, and not to benefit your sister-in-law or anyone else in the family.
You should ask your sister-in-law for documentation of the amount your mother-in-law received, the account into which the money was deposited, and what bills or personal expenses of your mother-in-law have paid from the account.
If your sister-in-law did not act properly and lawfully as her agent under the power of attorney in regard to the proceeds of sale your mother-in-law was entitled to receive, you can ask a court (In Pennsylvania, this would be the local County Orphans' Court) to require yoru sister-in-law to account for her handling of the money on your mother-in-law's behalf, and make her pay back any money that was not used to pay any bills or personal expenses for your mother-in-law.
You have a lot of confusing details. Anything that was said is meaningless. And a person can change their will or dispose of property (or have their agent do it for them through a power of attorney) prior to death. So what matters is what is on paper, not what was said.
Where did your mother-in-law own property? All real property has a deed. Many counties are even online. So I would start by seeing whose name is on the deed. If the home was sold, find out when and who was listed as the grantor (seller).
Many powers of attorney are recorded. They do not have to be initially, but must be when the agent goes to use it for the prinicipal and mental incapacity sets in. The power of attorney is registered either where the person owns land, where the prinicpal (your mother-in-law) resides or the state/county where the power of attorney was done. If there is one on file, get a copy of it and read it. It will specify the powers that can be exercised by the agent and will give an indication of whether your mother-in-law made it while she was still mentally competent or before Alzheimer's set in and progressed to an advanced state.
The power of attorney gave your sister-in-law the authority to manage your mother-in-law's property for her. You have to read the power of attorney to see if it alloweed your sister-in-law to sell the home. While your sister-in-law could sign for herself if she was part owner, she could not sign for your mother-in-law unless she had a valid power of attorney that provided for it or unless she became your mother-in-law's legal guardian.
Powers of attorney end at death, so if your mother-in-law has died, the power of attorney is no longer operative and the will or trust will control, if any. However, if it is discovered that an agent abused ior misused their authority under a power of attorney, the principal (if she is alive) or her heirs/beneficiaries (if the principal is dead) can sue the agent.
If your mother-in-law was mentally competent, she could revoke the power of attorney if she discovered that your sister-in-law had abused her powers. However, I question whether she can do that since she now has Alzheimer's. In such case, you, your husband or any other interested family member could bring an action to become the guardian of your mother-in-law's person and/or property. In a guardianship proceeding, you have to show that the prinicpal is mentally incompetent to either care for themselves or to manage their property. You would also have to show that your sister-in-law should not be the guardian due to the misuse/abuse.
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