Senior Signals: Sibling agreements can avert a conservatorship fight

Published on Sunday, 3 December 2017 20:03
Written by Daniel O. Tully


Dear Attorney Tully: My mom is 93 years old and very feeble. She can no long bathe herself or go to the bathroom by herself.

My sib-lings and I want to help Mom, but we cannot agree on who should be doing what for her.

We also all do not have the same amount of time to devote to her.

Although I am a single woman, my job has me working long hours. My brother has four kids in school who have many outside activities and my sister has some health issues which prevent her from doing many things.

Our other brother, who is retired, is able to devote a lot of time to Mom’s care.

What should we do?

Answer: Caring for an elderly parent can be stressful for families. Siblings may disagree over how to provide care or where a parent will live. If these squabbles escalate into a conservatorship battle, it can cost the family thousands of dollars.

To avoid this, lawyers have begun drafting sibling agreements (also called family care agreements).

If a parent becomes incapacitated and can no longer take care of him or herself, questions can come up between siblings over where a parent should live, who should manage the parent’s money or who will assume primary care-giving duties.

A sibling agreement can address these issues and provide consequences if the agreement is not followed.

Sibling agreements are not meant to replace a trust or power of attorney. Instead, the agreement can complement these valuable estate planning tools by providing guidance for the trustee or the holder of the power of attorney.

The following are examples of topics and agreement might cover:

 Which sibling has primary care of a parent and how care-giving duties will be divided among siblings

 Whether a sibling will be reimbursed for caring for a parent

 Where the parent should live – with a child, in assisted living, in a nursing home

 How to decide whether a parent should move into a nursing home

 How the parent’s money will be managed

 Whether the siblings will contribute financially to the parent’s care

If the siblings can’t reach an agreement, an elder law attorney or mediator can help draft the agreement. Mediators can also help if one of the siblings breaches the agreement. Consequences for breaching the agreement could be losing a power of attorney or a reduction in inheritance.

A qualified elder law attorney can help you draft such an agreement.

Attorney Daniel O. Tully is a partner in the law firm of Kilbourne & Tully, P.C., members of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys Inc., with offices at 120 Laurel St., Bristol (860) 583-1341.

Posted in The Bristol Press, Bristol on Sunday, 3 December 2017 20:03. Updated: Sunday, 3 December 2017 20:06.