Power of Attorney Turns Ugly
Dear Annie: I've been estranged from my twin brother for two years, since our sister died after her short battle with a terminal illness. When she was diagnosed, her family gave him power of attorney rights (property and health) during her remaining time. My brother managed her personal affairs and health care well, but unfortunately, he took his position of authority too seriously. Although our sister was in constant pain and requiring considerable medication, she was still able to listen, think and speak well enough to convey what she wanted. Her wishes did not agree with what our brother wanted her to do, and he expected the family and friends to support him. The rest of us felt that our sister's dying requests took precedence and that we would side with her. Needless to say, this caused a lot of arguments. However, we swallowed our pride and did the best we could to appease him. When she passed and the funeral services were over, we were all relieved, but the quarreling had caused significant damage to our relationships.
He's still blaming us for the problems we caused him. His behavior then and now exhibits traits of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, and I feel that his immediate family should be aware of this and have him seek professional help. However, my family and friends say to just let it go and forget about it. What are your thoughts? -- In a Quandary in Illinois
Dear In a Quandary: I'm sorry for the loss of your sister and the estrangement of your brother. I'm sure that made the grieving process all the more difficult.
It's clear your twin's well-being is weighing heavily on your mind; otherwise, you wouldn't be researching his possible mental health issues. I'd encourage you to go directly to him with your concerns. Don't bring up the term "obsessive-compulsive personality disorder"; simply tell him that you're worried about him, that you love him and that you think he should get help. If he refuses to listen, at least you'll have the peace of knowing you tried.
Dear Annie: I always enjoy your column. I would like to add to your answer to "Desperately Need Help," who needs to separate from her husband. I write based on my knowledge as a (retired) family law attorney in North Carolina. In North Carolina -- and in most states, I suspect -- a spouse who can't afford an attorney but needs spousal support can ask the judge to order the supporting spouse to pay for the legal fees that the dependent spouse had to incur. My experience was that most judges were ready to issue such an order, and "Desperately Need Help" could certainly get advice from an attorney about that, seeing as the attorney, too, will want the work and will know how to get paid for it.
In most states, a spouse who is in court to get a fair share of the property probably cannot get the judge to order the other side to pay the legal fees -- because if there's property to be divided, then that's a source of money to pay the lawyer. This latter case probably describes one part of this reader's situation, seeing as there's a 401(k) to be divided. I'm not the advice columnist, but perhaps part of the recovery that "Desperately Need Help" needs is escaping a mindset of helplessness and recognizing that she does have the resources to get what she is owed. -- Retired NC Lawyer
Dear Retired NC Lawyer: And I'm not the lawyer -- so I always really appreciate hearing from one with regard to legal advice that might help my readers. I'm printing your letter, as I'm sure it will be of use to "Desperately Need Help" and many others. Thank you.
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