How can I stop a family member from taking advantage of, and keeping me from seeing, our elderly relative?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Written by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

UPDATED: Jun 29, 2022

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Unfortunately, this is an all too common scenario in many families. Sometimes this happens because one family member wants to get control of assets and wants to keep other family members and close friends away so they won’t be able to detect what’s happening. Sometimes one family member will seek to keep others away because of unhealthy dynamics in the family, such as unresolved sibling rivalries.

Whatever the reason behind the behavior, the most important question is whether the elderly individual is receiving the care he or she needs, both physical and emotional. If he or she is in possession of faculties and able to make decisions, there is no legal recourse to stop her from refusing to see you. If there is a health care directive or durable power of attorney for health care, the individual chosen to represent the elderly person’s wishes has the right to make medical decisions, unless they can be shown to be causing harm or neglect, or unless the directive was signed in a state of incompetence. Power of attorney to handle finances may also have been established. However, a power of attorney only retains the power to handle affairs on behalf of the elderly person, it doesn’t give them the right to take assets or use them for their own benefit.

You have a few options in this situation. If you suspect that your mother or father is being abused, physically or emotionally, you can call your state’s protective authorities, who can investigate the situation. If you feel that it would be better to have someone else care for the person you’re concerned about or if you think there are financial irregularities going on, you can go to court and ask for a conservatorship (also referred to as a guardianship in some jurisdictions) of person and/or of estate. A probate attorney in your area can inform you about the procedure for doing so in your state. A conservatorship of his or her person would give you the right to control the care and day-to-day activities of their lives to make sure they’re safe and cared for, and also maintain who may visit. A conservatorship of the estate would give you the power to handle assets and make sure none have been taken. This is done under the supervision of the court, usually after you post a surety bond to protect the estate.

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