Power of Attorney Disputes – Courts Can’t Always Resolve Relationship Problems

Domenic called me to ask for legal advice. His sister had their father’s power of attorney. She had “taken control of my father’s welfare and wealth,” as he put it. Now his sister was ignoring him. “What are my rights to challenge her in court?” Domenic asked.

We had a brief conversation about his father, and Domenic answered my questions. He was not worried his sister was abusing his father’s finances. His problem appeared to be his relationship with his sister.

“What are your concerns?” I asked.

“I want to know what is going on with my father’s money since he sold his house. My dad is now living in a home. I want her to talk to me.”

I gave him some suggestions on how to communicate with his sister.

“Your sister is obliged to keep your father’s finances confidential. You can ask to look at the power of attorney document. Perhaps there are some conditions in the document. These may allow her to share your father’s financial information.

As his attorney, your sister has to act for your father’s benefit. She is to encourage him to participate in any decisions. Did your father tell you he did not want to sell his house and move?”

“I don’t understand,” Domenic answered, “why wouldn’t I just hire a lawyer to go to court?”

The legal system is expensive, especially if lawyers must be involved.

“Domenic, you do not appear to have a legal problem. The court can only help if you need a judge to decide a legal question. Unless we can frame this as a legal issue, it is a communication breakdown. You seem to have a relationship problem and not a legal problem. You are not questioning your sister’s management of your father’s finances. You are only complaining about how she is dealing with you.”

Domenic agreed there were no signs his father was neglected or receiving improper care. However, he felt his sister should include him more in her decisions.

Powers of attorney options

“Your sister is not stopping you from visiting your father.” I said. “If you have concerns, why don’t you speak directly with your father? If he has concerns he can:

• Share information regarding his finances.
• Tell your sister to share annual tax returns with you, or
• Make a new power of attorney, assuming he is capable.”

Domenic asked if this was a case for mediation.

I explained how mediation works. Mediation can often allow parties in a dispute to speak off the record. Mediation creates a non-threatening environment that helps to resolve problems.
If you are in a power of attorney dispute, read my free guides and these blog posts:

Powers of Attorney Lawsuits and Mother’s Day

Prepare Powers of Attorney to Prevent Elder Abuse

Edward Olkovich (BA, LLB, TEP, and C.S.) has successfully resolved many estate disputes involving powers of attorney and capacity issues. These included contested court applications under Ontario’s Substitute Decisions Act, 1992. Ed is an Ontario lawyer, nationally recognized author and estate expert. He is a Toronto based Certified Specialist in Estates and Trusts. Edward has practiced law since 1978 and is the author of seven estate books. © 2013