When Sibling Rivalry Leads to Guardianship Litigation over a Parent

“Would you two cut it out?!” “Why can’t you get along with your brother?” “Stop picking on your sister.” These are common parental refrains with young children, but what happens if adult children can’t get along when it comes to assisting with or making decisions related to the physical or financial wellbeing of an elderly parent? In that case, there is often a race to the court house, which can lead to a nasty court battle over who should become guardian over a parent, and thereby take control the purse strings. 

When a Child can become a Parent’s Guardian

One of the most difficult things for a client to accept is that he can only become guardian over an aging parent if that parent is legally incompetent. Just the fact that a parent is making decisions that a child thinks are poor decisions may not be enough if the parent understands the consequences of his actions and chooses to make those bad decisions anyway. 

If a parent is competent, the fact that the parent is favoring one child over another is likely not actionable — as unfair, infuriating, and hurtful as it may seem. The times when it could become actionable include if the other sibling is stealing from the parent, is unduly influencing the parent, or is breaching the fiduciary duty he owes the parent under a power of attorney. If you suspect that a sibling, caregiver or other family member is taking advantage of someone you love, a guardianship attorney can help you evaluate the rights and options you might have. 

About the Author

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Robin J. Stinson

Robin Stinson, a board-certified Family Law Specialist, focuses her practice in all areas of family law and dispute resolution, including complex marital estates and financial issues in equitable distribution, alimony and child support cases.
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