Mother is elderly living in a nursing home. Severe dementia, however not ruled as incompetent by a court (because it was never an issue before...). Relative in another state passes and evidently my mother was a beneficiary to her life insurance policy. When this relative passed, they sent paperwork to my mother to file the claim. My brother (who is estranged from the family but does visit her) somehow got this claim information. No one else, including myself, knew anything about it. He files the claim, gets her to sign it, a check is issued. I learned of this by finding some random paperwork in her room and researching. After talking with the insurance company and providing my POA they tell me the check was cashed BY HER (I saw a copy, it's indeed her signature) to a bank account I know nothing about. My assumption is that he 'added' her to his bank account and had her deposit the check in it. I called the bank, they won't talk to me without a court order even with the POA. I know crimes have been committed, but I'm not sure where to start. APS? Police? If she signed it 'willingly' is there even any crime since she is not ruled incompetent by a court?
I'm moving this to elder law, where I think it better belongs. I'm so sorry this happened, I know personally how difficult this can be.
It's really hard to deal with these situations and you have my sympathy. Does your mother understand what happened? Did she WANT to give the money to your brother? If she did not understand what she was doing, she can probably ask to speak to the police. One reason I suggest this as a first course of action, provided that is something she would even consider, is it will establish the seriousness of her experience of the deception. If indeed she didn't know she received the funds or didn't know she was putting them in an account for your brother to the exclusion of possibly herself and her other children, then some kind of theft by deception probably has occurred. I've seen plenty of elder abuse, once a where a family member at 91 was permitted by a car dealer to purchase a new car for over $50K in cash, even though the dealer knew the individual's daughter handled his money and had helped him buy his last car. The dealer took the position that anyone of any age can buy a car with his own money and they are not to judge the wisdom of such a transaction. So if your mother decided to comply with your brother's idea to put the funds into a joint account, she probably does have the right to do that. If she will say she was deceived into doing that, you probably can get some help. Another advantage of bringing in law enforcement is they have the power to investigate without you having to spend a lot to get to the bottom of what happened, but I think that will require your mother to create a criminal complaint. I would talk with an elder law specialist, and although I doubt the bank is responsible since her signature is real, if she was not deceived, but merely persuaded by your brother, as you mention, to sign 'willingly' they can help you sort out what, if anything can be done.
Yes, APS, the police are good starts. Also, as soon as possible, get an opinion in writing from her doctor that states at the time the check was signed she was incompetent. If you cannot get any resolution through APS or the police, hire a lawyer. The lawyer will determine what actions is necessary to have the money returned. It could be as simple as a letter to your brother. It could require court action and a court order .
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