about my mum's finances?

(40 Posts)
KittyShcherbatskaya Fri 25-Oct-13 11:55:26

I am posting in AIBU because I could really do with some external perspective on this, but it's a sensitive issue so please be gentle!

My sister has always been very dependent on my DM for support, practical and financial. A couple of years ago my DM had a severe stroke which left her paralysed and frail, and had to move into nursing care. After this my sister hit the bottle very heavily - she had always been a drinker but mum had picked up the pieces. My sister accumlulated a series of drink related convictions including assaults, lost her job and had her children removed. She recently completed a detox and has been sober since.

The financial issue is that just before DM's stroke she had agreed to loan my sister a deposit for a bigger house, my sister was going to rent out her existing home and buy the new one to live in. After the stroke my sister had my mum's bank details so transferred the money out and bought the house while DM was still in intensive care. Now a couple of years on my DM is going through her savings quite quickly, financing the cost of her nursing home. My sister has now sold the house and there was no equity beyond the original deposit cost. However she says she needs this money to live on as she was sacked from her job. She says she intends to pay it back later, she has made application for benefits and says her goal is to become an alcohol support worker - I asked a friend in that line of work what the chances are of her getting paid work in that area and he said she would need to have been in recovery for a couple of years at least. If she did get a paid job then, the income from it is less for a whole year than my sister owes my DM.

I told my sister that I thought this was not acceptable, as DM needs her money for her care. She told me that she needs to prioritise her own health and DM has enough money to pay her bills for 18 months, and then can sell her house. She said I was putting unfair pressure on her about money at a point when I should be supporting her recovery, and that I am selfish.

I should explain that my DM isn't in a position to address this herself - she is experiencing quite a lot of confusion since her stroke, she thinks her care home is a hospital and she will be going home, and that she still has her job, etc. However her confusion is not severe enough at the moment to count as not having capacity to take her own decisions.

I have tried to set this out fairly, do you think there is any degree to which AIBU about this? FWIW I believe that my sister has an undiagnosed personality disorder (I work in a related field so this isn't a totally gonzo analysis) and I do try to take this into account in my dealings with her. At the moment though I feel that if she doesn't pay my DM back her money I will have reached the end of the road with her. I recognize though that I am very emotional about all of this and am willing to listen to being told I am BU.

sparechange Fri 25-Oct-13 12:01:33

You poor thing for having to deal with it, and I haven't really got anything useful to say other than I really wouldn't pin much hope on either being able to reason with your sister, or her ever paying that money back.

Addicts are by their very nature insanely selfish and self-centred people. She has already proven that she is so hell-bent on putting herself first that she had her children taken away from her rather than addressing her own behaviour.
While it is great that she is now sober, she can't change years and years of entrenched thinking over night, and still very much has the addict mentality of 'me first and fuck the consequences'

My priority if I were you would be shoring up your mothers remaining finances as much as possible. Speak to a social worker about the situation and get a power of attorney drawn up for your mother while she is still of sound enough mind to nominate you as the guardian. And when she isn't, make sure you work with the social worker to get an enduring power of attorney.

Sallykitten Fri 25-Oct-13 12:16:37

I think it depends really. If paying this money back would genuinely leave her with no means of support and she was on the streets then I think she is right to keep it.

ImperialFucker Fri 25-Oct-13 12:17:35

Kitty, do you know for certain that your sister hasn't been taking money out over the period of your mum's illness? If she was able to take such a large amount out (which actually was theft) do you know she hasn't taken more?

You should definitely sort out power of attorney. If your poor mum doesn't know where she is, then she really needs someone who cares about her to take care of her finances.

KittyShcherbatskaya Fri 25-Oct-13 12:36:21

Thank you for your comments.

Sparechange and Imperial apologies if this is drip feeding but there was a social worker involved a couple of years ago. I'm pretty sure that yes, my sister has been using my mum's money as her own for some time now. A social worker was asked to investigate but was the most useless individual I have met for a long time, he went and asked my mum if she minded my sister taking her money and she said no. Of course she wasn't going to get her 'baby' into trouble with the authorities. He then interviewed my sister who said that my older sister and I are jealous of her special relationship with my mum, and told him a lot of lies about my mum having bought me a car and paid for my older sister's wedding (neither true). He concluded that there was no problem and closed the case. I argued with this at the time, pointing out that one of the things my mum told him was that she was fine for money as she is still working - how he thought this was the case when she is paralysed, wheelchair bound and needing 24 hour nursing care I don't know. I left it by putting my concerns in writing and saying that if it later emerges that my sister was financially abusing my mum and he had refused to listen, I would hold his department responsible - that way they may feel obliged to fund her place in the nursing home if my sister has spent all the money.

I could ask for a new referral now, but wonder if it would have any effect. Do you think I should?

Regarding POA, I have advised my mum that she should give this to an independent person outside of her children, but she hasn't done. At one point my sister asked for mum to give her POA but the process is that at the point of application other family members are asked if they object - my older sister and I did, and my younger sister dropped it. She has my mum's cards and full access to her account anyway.

Sally my sister is living back in her first house, which has a smallish mortgage on it. She has applied for benefits and will get them three months after being sacked. It's a 3 bedroom house so I suggested she could let out rooms, she doesn't want to as she feels it would hinder her recovery. She says she will look for work but will struggle with her criminal record. She isn't on the streets but yes she is in a difficult position. But it is one of her own making, and why should she have my mum's money to get her out of it?

ImperialFucker Fri 25-Oct-13 12:49:05

I hate to say this but I doubt very much that your mum has much money left at all.

In your position I would go to see a solicitor asap and tell them everything. The solicitor can act as POA but obviously that will cost even more money. If I were you I would want you and your other (reliable) sister to have joint POA as soon as possible, to prevent any more of your mum's money going.

It's a horrible situation but I do think you should act fast.

KittyShcherbatskaya Fri 25-Oct-13 12:51:25

thanks IF - solicitor rather than back to social services then?

raisah Fri 25-Oct-13 12:53:16

Can you report the cards as lost/stolen & have account changed and new cards issued as a security measure? It is a sneaky way of doing it but you need to protect your mum and her money.

Kundry Fri 25-Oct-13 12:53:18

Hi - if your mum is now confused, you unfortunately cannot get her a POA, this can ONLY be done by a person when they are fully of sound mind. For your mum it sounds like this is sadly too late.

However your mum's finances should only be used in her best interests which at the moment sounds like paying for her nursing home and other things she may need day to day, not your sister having access to her accounts.

What you do now depends on how much risk you think your mother is at and how much you are prepared to fall out with your sister. I would strongly suggest you get yourself fully informed by discussing the situation with a solicitor. If you think your sister is financially abusing your mother you should report this to Social Services saying she is a vulnerable adult.

ImperialFucker Fri 25-Oct-13 12:53:53

Yes and tell the solicitor exactly what social services did in response to your worries. They are guilty of enabling financial abuse. It needs to be stopped immediately. Your poor mum; it's awful to think of her money being spent like that.

ImperialFucker Fri 25-Oct-13 12:54:50

In the meantime if I were you I'd cancel your mum's cards - say she's in hospital and they've been stolen - she's not well enough to speak to them.

Your sister has no legitimate reason for using them, so technically they are stolen.

Sallykitten Fri 25-Oct-13 12:55:44

I agree that you need to protect the rest of your mother's money now and make sure no more is missing.

But I think you're being very unsympathetic to the fact that your sister is in recovery. Yes she has done a lot of things wrong but she is recovering now. I don't think benefits will pay the mortgage and it's very hard to find somewhere that will take housing benefit and if she has a poor credit rating she will struggle to find a let. If the only option she had was to go homeless in order to get somewhere to live she is probably correct in thinking that she would fall off the wagon, it's a horrible experience and temporary accommodation is normally full of boozers.

If she has a 3 bedroomed house and doesn't want to let out rooms is it an option that she could sell and move somewhere smaller and repay her mother out of that?

I can understand why she doesn't want to let rooms out, for a start it would be difficult for her if her tenants brought in alcohol.

ImperialFucker Fri 25-Oct-13 12:56:04

Kundry, what's the situation then when someone is too confused to agree to a POA? How can people be prevented from ripping them off?

Kundry Fri 25-Oct-13 13:03:15

I am not a solicitor but have some knowledge of adult safeguarding. However it is very definitely the case that only people of sound mind can make a POA - unfortunately relatives usually only think to get one when it is too late.

If there is no POA then the Court of Protection can appoint a Deputy to act on the person's behalf.

This is why I think the OP urgently needs to see a solicitor to talk through options and likely to make an application to the court. At the moment they are using the fact that their mum had given people access to cards to pay bills etc but mum has no protection in this at all.

If you repost on legal, someone like mumblechum will be able to give much better advice but the current situation can't continue.

KittyShcherbatskaya Fri 25-Oct-13 13:04:57

Thank you Sally I think what you say is fair, I am concerned for my mum so I find it difficult to see my sister's needs. Would she not get Housing Benefit to pay her mortgage? I take your point about lodgers, I think she doesn't want to down size as she hopes that one day she might be able to have her DCs to visit again. I wonder if anyone knows what realistic employment options there are for someone with convictions including assault?

Kundry my understanding from the staff at the care home is that to be assessed as not having capacity you have to be very confused indeed, like not knowing what year it is. Do you know how it's assessed - is it the GP, or a social worker?

Kundry Fri 25-Oct-13 13:04:59

And as above, I suspect that anyone accessing mum's cards and accounts at the moment is at best in breach of data protection laws and at worst stealing - but I am not a solicitor, you need to speak to the real thing.

KittyShcherbatskaya Fri 25-Oct-13 13:05:49

Cross posts thank you Kundry I will try the legal board as well.

ImperialFucker Fri 25-Oct-13 13:09:17

She is definitely breaking the law by taking money without permission. The fact permission to use her card was given once doesn't mean she can use it again and again.

If you report the cards as stolen then at least your sister won't be able to take any more money out. Are you visiting your mum this weekend? If so, after that visit, report the cards as stolen. They're not with her, are they?

Kundry Fri 25-Oct-13 13:11:40

Capacity is not a single thing - you don't either have capacity or not, it relates to the decision you are making.

So someone could have capacity to know they want porridge not cereal for breakfast (despite not knowing what year it is), but not capacity to manage their finances. It doesn't sound as if your mum has capacity to manage her finances although she probably has capacity to decide lots of other things.

To have capacity you need 4 things:
To understand information relevant to the decision
Retain the information
To be able to weight up the pros and cons
To be able to communicate your decision

Capacity for something like this would be a specialist area which many GPs will not do - you need to see a solicitor (sorry to sound like a broken record) and they will instruct someone to make the assessment, usually a psychiatrist for older people.

KittyShcherbatskaya Fri 25-Oct-13 13:14:35

Thank you I have posted in Legal as well and it sounds like seeing a solicitor would be sensible. I'm not sure about reporting the cards as stolen as I'm not sure my mum would follow through - she doesn't want to get my sister into trouble. After her stroke she was less concerned about her health and complete loss of independence than how my sister would manage without her sad

Kundry Fri 25-Oct-13 13:20:31

Unfortunately this is exactly the sort of situation you get in elder abuse, where the vulnerable person doesn't see it the way an outsider would. If you asked your mum she probably would cheerfully give your sister the money because she is worried about her.

I think the solicitor would be good. Even if it does turn out your mum has capacity she can still be protected from making unwise decisions due to vulnerability. It's great she has you looking out for her.

Choccybaby Fri 25-Oct-13 13:20:31

Sorry Kundry but you're not totally right. I do a lot of capacity assessments for people with brain injuries.

People have to have the mental capacity to appoint a poa but don't have to be of "sound mind". They do have to understand, recall and weigh up all the facts relating to the decision though. They do not have to be fully orientated and may have some cognitive impairment.

You mother's GP may be able to do the capacity assessment, or someone from the hospital such as her stroke physician or psychologist. You need this first to decide if poa or court of protection is the right path to go down.

The Alzheimer's society and help the aged have some good info on this too

Choccybaby Fri 25-Oct-13 13:21:18

Sorry xpost

Choccybaby Fri 25-Oct-13 13:26:53

Oh and the assessment is not does she have the capacity to manage her finances but does she have the capacity to appoint a poa.

You can decline to do a poa if you have capacity to make this decision even if you can't actually manage your money as you can make unwise decisions if you have capacity in that decision

KittyShcherbatskaya Fri 25-Oct-13 14:00:34

Thank you Kundra and Choccy . That is my mum, she has capacity about decisions like what to wear and what activities to do, but does not understand her financial position. However Choccy's last post describes it exactly - she has capacity to take the decision to be abused by my sister sad

I'm starting to think that all we can do is wait for the care home bills to start bouncing, and hope that at that point social services will be obliged to pay for her to stay where she is.

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