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Recognize when it's time to contest a power of attorney

If your aging parent gave one of your siblings (or someone else) their powers of attorney for medical and financial decisions, and you think it was a bad decision, should you contest the issue in court?

It depends. There are a number of different things that you have to take into consideration before you can make that decision, including the effect that a legal dispute may have on your family, your own personal feelings about assuming the responsibility and whether or not there are alternative ways to resolve the issues you have.

Ultimately, however, your decision may be driven by a real need to protect your parent from harm. Here are the signs that your parent may have trusted the wrong party with his or her power of attorney:

1. You are your parent's actual caregiver -- but don't have his or her financial power of attorney

Sometimes, a parent will entrust one child with a medical power of attorney and another child with a financial power of attorney to avoid looking like he or she is "playing favorites." This can create serious problems, however.

The child with the financial power of attorney simply may not be around to realize your parent's actual needs. If you're the child actually caring for your elderly parent, it may be time to ask the court to grant you the financial reins as well.

2. There have been numerous changes to your parent's financial holdings

If you believe that the sibling with your parent's financial power of attorney is taking advantage of your parent, it's definitely time to assert a challenge. Signs of financial abuse could involve lavish spending, bank accounts being drained, stocks being cashed in, property being sold and other changes that you don't believe your parent would want -- and that don't seem necessary for your parent's care.

3. You don't believe your parent is getting the medical care he or she needs

Sometimes, an adult child will simply fail to live up to the expectations a parent had when he or she granted the medical power of attorney. If your parent is suffering from medical neglect, you can't step in and take charge without challenging your sibling's power of attorney.

If you're inclined to contest a sibling's power of attorney over your parent, talk to an attorney in our office about your reasons and your options.

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