What can be done if a relative stole personal property from a family member who has dementia?

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What can be done if a relative stole personal property from a family member who has dementia?

My sister was living with my grandparents when my grandmother passed away unexpectedly. My grandfather has dementia and was moved to a memory care facility at that time. It took over a year to get my sister out of their house which had to be done by court order. She took with her thousands of dollars worth of my grandfather’s belongings – everything from pots and pans to the TV, computer and furniture. She also took a large safe which contained upwards of 10 different guns. The police won’t do anything because there was no forced entry and they said it is a civil matter. They said they can’t prove that those items weren’t hers to begin with. I even offered the pictures I had of the house and most of their possessions, which I had taken right after my grandmother passed. I guess I had a bad feeling something like this would happen. What can we do? How can we get them to investigate this so we can keep my

grandfather protected? This is money that he needs to pay for his care.

Asked on June 5, 2018 under Estate Planning, Arizona

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

If he were still mentally competent, it would be up to him what to do (if anything) about this. Based on what you write, however, he appears to not be mentally competent. If he had previously (while still competent) designated someone his attorney-in-fact or agent by giving them power/authority by a power of attorney (POA), that person (the attorney-in-fact; the one given power by the POA) could sue your sister on your grandfather's behalf for the value of what she took. Assuming that person could prove in court by a "preponderance of the evidence" (more likely than not) that your sister did not own those things but rather stole/took them, a court could order her to return them or repay their value.
If your grandfather did not designate someone his attorney-in-fact or agent by a POA while still competent, he cannot do so now--only mentally competent people can create POAs. In this case, you or some other family member could apply to the courts to be appointed his legal guardian or conservator, with the legal power to manage his affairs and over his property and finances. That person could then do as per the above: sue your sister for what she improperly took.
If you want to explore the option of asking the court to appoint you his guardian, consult with an elder law attorney.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

If he were still mentally competent, it would be up to him what to do (if anything) about this. Based on what you write, however, he appears to not be mentally competent. If he had previously (while still competent) designated someone his attorney-in-fact or agent by giving them power/authority by a power of attorney (POA), that person (the attorney-in-fact; the one given power by the POA) could sue your sister on your grandfather's behalf for the value of what she took. Assuming that person could prove in court by a "preponderance of the evidence" (more likely than not) that your sister did not own those things but rather stole/took them, a court could order her to return them or repay their value.
If your grandfather did not designate someone his attorney-in-fact or agent by a POA while still competent, he cannot do so now--only mentally competent people can create POAs. In this case, you or some other family member could apply to the courts to be appointed his legal guardian or conservator, with the legal power to manage his affairs and over his property and finances. That person could then do as per the above: sue your sister for what she improperly took.
If you want to explore the option of asking the court to appoint you his guardian, consult with an elder law attorney.


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