IS MY SISTER ABUSING OUR FATHER’S MENTAL STATE?
OUR RELATIONSHIPS COUNSELLOR ANSWERS YOUR PROBLEMS
dmg media (UK)
I am a 65-year-old man. My father, aged 86, has signs of dementia but lives on his own in one of my sister’s properties and pays rent and bills. My sister is his carer and also has a job three days a week. I’ve discovered that she and her husband have been made executors of his will, although he has since told me that he wished I was the joint executor, not her husband. I’ve also been reliably informed by a third party that only one of his grandchildren – my sister’s child – is due to receive any money from the will and the other four have been excluded. My father has told us Qthat his money is being taken and that it is disappearing, but this could be part of the dementia. He has also asked my sister and her husband to show me all of his assets, but they have refused. I’m not sure how to proceed. My sister does not speak to me or our other brother, not even to tell us if our father gets ill or has a fall and so on. Should a carer behave this way? This is very difficult because, yes, dementia can cause elements of paranoia, especially around money. And your sister could reasonably be using your father’s money to pay for things he needs, as well as rent on the property she owns. However, the fact that she won’t share with you details of the will, even though your father has asked her to, and that apparently only her Achild stands to inherit, does raise alarm bells. Executors have power to act only after a person’s death and do not have authority to change a will. The question is, on what authority is your sister spending your father’s money? Has he given her lasting power of attorney (LPA)? Check with the Office of the Public Guardian. The legal position is complicated. Christine Slidel of Irwin Mitchell Solicitors says that if your sister was appointed LPA after a dementia diagnosis, it may not be valid: was his mental capacity assessed then? If he does not have capacity, a deputyship application would be required – the Court of Protection authorises this. Slidel adds that it is possible to change a will with a dementia diagnosis if your father wishes. Speak to a member of Solicitors for the Elderly (sfe.legal) with expertise in this area. But there is more to this problem than the legal aspect. It sounds as if there is a family rift. It is concerning that your sister could be deliberately excluding you from your father’s care and I agree she should inform you if he is ill. Contact the Alzheimer’s Society (alzheimers.org.uk), both for emotional support (dementia is extremely distressing) and for how to approach your sister. You could also discuss with them whether you might need to consider raising a safeguarding concern with the local council’s vulnerable adult team.