Most people should be able to choose a loving and honoring adult child or family member as a financial caregiver. An Indiana case highlights the importance of integrity when making the choice.
In the case of Biggs vs Renner, Terri Renner and Sherry Biggs are siblings locked in a court battle over their mother’s care, with Terri claiming that Sherry abused her position as agent under her mother’s Power of Attorney, and used their mother’s funds for her own benefit. Court records would confirm Terri’s fears.
Sherry admitted to converting her mother’s accounts first to a joint account, and then to accounts only in her name. She offered a promissory note to court as evidence that she intended to pay the money back, but the the note was largely unenforceable due to her mother’s incapacity, and no payments had been made so far. In addition, Sherry allowed her daughter and husband to live rent-free in her mother’s home and paid several thousand dollars of improvements from her mother’s accounts that did not directly benefit her mother.
Terri sought a court’s intervention to remove her sister as attorney-in-fact, and to insert a disinterested third party as guardian of their mother’s estate. The court granted Terri’s petition, but Sherry objected on appeal.
A Power of Attorney is a legal arrangement whereby one person grants authority (let’s call that person the grantor) to another person to act in their behalf as attorney-in-fact, or agent while they (the grantor) are alive but unable to act for themselves. Acting as agent under a power of attorney is a fiduciary responsibility that obligates the financial caregiver to exercise the powers granted solely for the benefit of the grantor. A financial caregiver has to keep accurate records and is prohibited from using the property of the grantor for their own purposes. Being a financial caregiver is an honorable position when conducted honorably.
Why name an adult child as financial caregiver?
It is understandable that an older person would want to name an adult child as financial caregiver on their behalf. We want to believe our own children would act honorably on our behalf, or perhaps we have regrets about our own parenting and feel guilty if we do not atone ourselves by putting them in charge. Sometimes a parent will name an estranged child in hope that the trust shown by the parent will mend a broken relationship. Parents will often do whatever it takes to keep a child close to them. However, the selection of a financial caregiver should place emphasis on the dependability and the integrity of the individual over familial connections. This may require difficult decisions and may even alienate family members, but if early and intentional discussions on the subject can be held with the appropriate family members, perhaps these kinds of conflicts can be avoided.
Note: The information above is for general information only and should not be relied upon to make legal or financial decisions Advice as to the preparation and use of Powers of Attorney should only be provided by a qualified attorney licensed in your state.