She will not let her grown children handle her finances. What options do we (her children) have to get her financial situation under control? Someone recommended making her a ward of the state. What does that mean for a sibling that takes care of her? If she has maxed out credit cards who is responsible if she can't pay them?
If your mother still has sufficient mental capacity and is willilng, the easiest (quickest and least expensive) is to have her sign a financial power of attorney appointing someone to handle her finances and a healthcare power of attorney appointing someone to handle her medical decisions. If you mom no longer has sufficient mental capacity or is unwilling to sign these documents, then you will need to hire a guardianship attorney to have her determined legally incompetent to handle her affairs, whether financial or healthcare or both. Once adjudicated legally incompetent, whoever is appointed by the courts to make such decisions on her behalf may do so. However, keep in mind that such decisions are reviewable by the courts and whoever is handling your mother's finances will be required to make accountings to court as to how her money is being managed and spent.
Such an adjudication of legal incompetence should not affect a sibling's ability to take care of your mother, so long as that caregiving is in her best interests. Additionally, as for her credit cards, neither her sibiling nor children should be responsible for this debt unless you co-signed for the credit card at some point.
Best of luck in determining which route will be best for your mother and your family.
I assume that because your mother will not let her children handle her finances that she would not be willing to sign a Durable General Power of Attorney. However, if she is able to understand the pluses and minuses of doing so, I would certainly recommend that she should do so. Even if she doesn't feel that she needs help at this time, there may come a time in the future when she won't be able to handle her own financial and health care decisions. It would be good if she had designated someone that she trusts to help her make those decisions.
Failing that, and if she is making financial decisions that are not wise, you may have no recourse other than to see the appointment of a guardian to take over the administration of her financial affairs, and possibly even her health care decisions. If your mother resides in Pierce County, then I suggest that you consult with Eileen Peterson in Tacoma at 800-240-5051. If she resides in King County, then I suggest that you consult with Suzanne Howle in Seattle at 206-682-8400.
As to the credit card debt, your mother is solely responsible for her own debts unless someone else has agreed to guaranty those obligations.
Best wishes to you as you attempt to help your mother.
Renton and Kent, WA
Because she will not let her children handle her finances, it seems unlikely she will sign a POA. First, the easy part, her credit card debt is her responsibility and her estate will pay it to the extent there are assets. None of the children becomes liable by birth to her for her debt. If she is competent mentally, getting her made a ward of the state or a forced conservatorship will tick her off. The sibling that cares for her is already in a position of trust with her; will she allow that sibling to help? If not, steps do need to be taken and you will need an Elder Law attorney in your area of Washington. I like:
Elizabeth Rankin Powell
535 Dock St Ste 108
Tacoma, WA 98402
This is intended to be general guidance and not necessarily state specific advice. There are some concepts that are the same or similar in most jurisdictions but not all. Use the AVVO.com web site to find an attorney in your area for state specific advice. In addition to that, contact your local bar association for referral to an attorney who specializes in this or talk to friends and neighbors to ask about an attorney they have used and liked. Often, but not always, the attorney will do an initial consultation free of charge. You will then be in a better position to determine what to do next. Best of luck to you!
If you liked this answer, click on the thumbs up or vote it best answer! Thanks. Eliz. C. A. Johnson Post Office Box 8 Danville, California 94526-0008 Legal disclaimer: I do not practice law in any state but California. As such, any responses to posted inquiries, such as the one above, are limited to a general understanding of law in California and not to any other jurisdiction. In addition, no response to any posted inquiry should be deemed to constitute legal advice, nor to constitute the existence of an attorney/client or other contractual or fiduciary relationship, inasmuch as legal advice can only be provided in circumstances in which the attorney is able to ask questions of the person seeking legal advice and to thus gather appropriate information.
Our Rating is calculated using information the lawyer has included on their profile in addition to the information we collect from state bar associations and other organizations that license legal professionals. Attorneys who claim their profiles and provide Avvo with more information tend to have a higher rating than those who do not.What determines Avvo Rating?Experience & background
Years licensed, work experience, educationLegal community recognition
Peer endorsements, associations, awardsLegal thought leadership
Publications, speaking engagementsDiscipline