Question is two-fold

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Question is two-fold

Just recently my father was taken to hospital with terminal cancer and making plans to put him in hospice. I am in Massachusetts and he is in Tennessee. I am his only blood relative and only daughter. He put my name on his checking account long ago just in case something like this happened. I have access to the account in order to pay what is left of his bills because he will not be going back to his apartment since he is terminal and they do not think he will make it to the end of the year. Is there anything that I need to know before I withdraw money? Also, my father did mention to me he had a Will done but due to his step-grandchild ransacking his apartment, it is now missing from his possessions. I have no attorney name or copy of the Will myself. How would I go about finding out where or if there really is a Will. Keep in mind my father is highly drugged for pain and is no longer incoherent. I am at a loss at the moment as to whether I can clean out his apartment and have manager of the apartment complex rent it out to someone else, my father will never go back there. What are my legal rights?

Asked on December 5, 2017 under Estate Planning, Massachusetts

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

1) Unless you have a power of attorney (POA) from him, you have NO authority over his apartment or his belongings. Having access to or authority over his bank account does not give you any other legal authority over his belongings or unit, and being his child similarly does not give you any legal power over his finances, belongings, or affairs.
2) There is no way to know for sure if there is a will, in the sense that very few wills are filed with the courts pre-death--and so there is no central repository in which you can find it. All you can do is ask his lawyer and accountant (if any), other family and friends, etc. if they have a copy--but if no one does (and you can't find any in his belongings), if it ever did exist, it is likely gone for good and therefore may as well not exist.
If he is no longer coherent, you may need to go to court to have him officially declared incompetent and have yourself appointed his legal guardian--that will give you the power to manage his affairs and finances and make other decisions for him. Speak with an elder law attorney about this option.


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