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The Story of the Stolen Grandma

Several years ago, my paralegal asked me to take a phone call. The woman on the phone was upset that someone was taking advantage of her 78 year old mother. When I picked up the phone, I had no way of knowing that this was the opening act of an eight month saga.

The agitated voice belonged to Reba*. She rambled through a series of events involving herself, her mother, her sister and her brother Willie. Mother loved her family, but Willie was the black sheep. When their dad died years ago, Willie moved in to help mom out temporarily, but he never left. The house began to deteriorate and Mom had to move into a more suitable apartment. Willie stayed on “to take care of things.” The faded colors of the wood frame house and the hanging shutters told the tale. The house was a sad shadow of its former beauty. And Willie stayed, even though there was no longer any central heat in the house.

Willie had been named the agent on mom’s power of attorney document years ago, just after his dad died. However, now that mom was not living with Willie, the Power of Attorney document had been changed. The newer POA document named Reba and her sister Lou Ann as co-agents for their mom.

Willie took their mom to the bank with him and had his mom withdraw funds using the old Power of Attorney document. She did whatever Willie said and then Willie took the cash. Willie had withdrawn thousands of dollars at a time.” Willie had been a gifted artisan who had worked on several high profile buildings years ago. Now he was using his mom as his own personal ATM machine.

Reba and Lou Ann wanted mom to have control of her own life. They told me that she forgot things, but she didn’t have dementia or anything like that. I wasn’t sure if Reba was telling me what she hoped was true, of if there was indeed no diagnosis. Reba and Luann wanted to believe that mom was still mom, but they were seeing signs of her frailty. I set up a meeting with Luann and Reba to talk through the issues in a little more detail.

When the sisters arrived at my office a few days later, they came in, both speaking at the same time about what Willie had done this time. The flustered look on their faces proved not only that they were sisters, but that they were unified in their anger toward their brother. Willie had gone back to one of the banks where he had taken his mother and emptied two rather large accounts, having cashier’s checks made out for each account. Over half of mom’s money was gone.

I should back up and tell you that mom lived here, in Cumberland County. The bank where she had done much of her banking in the past was in Dauphin County and Willie lived in McKean County. Willie had made transactions in the past in all three counties. This time, he made the two large withdrawals in Cumberland County, taking mom with him to the bank.

After reviewing the facts, which I am mentioning only briefly here, I agreed to take the case as a potential Power of Attorney Abuse case. I wanted to interview mom, be sure of the facts that I had learned so far, and try to stop the financial bleeding.

* The names have been changed to protect the innocent, just like Dragnet.

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