Access Denied

My elderly mother has sold her house and has moved in with my sister. My mother has paid  for improvements to  my sister's house and my sister hasn't let me visit her for months…..

Is there anything I can do?

There may be many reasons why an elderly person may decide to sell their own home and move in with a child or other family member. It could be that it makes good financial sense to share the cost of living or it may be for health or compnaionship.

Provided your mother has full mental capacity and is not being unduly influenced by your sister then she can spend money on whatever she likes, including improvements to your sister's property.

The fact that your sister is now restricting your access to your mother may raise  questions about her motives and the extent to which your is being controlled and perhaps unduly influenced by your sister.

It is important to try and establish whether the money your mother is spending on improvements to the property is a gift to your brother, an investment, or a loan.

  1. If it is an investment, the money will form part of your mother's estate on her death. Your mother should have a documented share of the equity in your sister's property and be named as a co-owner on the Land Registry title, or have a declaration of trust in place documenting her part ownership. 
  2. If it is a loan, the money will form part of your mother's estate on her death. Your mother should seek advice from an idenpendant Solicitor who can advise her in relation to the preparation of a legal charge or loan agreement that will record the basis upon which the loan has been made and how it should be re-paid on her death. 
  3. If the money is a gift, the value of it will not necessarily be available for distribution as part of your mother's estate on her death. Your mother will need to review her will with a qualified and independent solicitor, who can advise her how best to reflect the changes in her circumstances and to avoid an unnecessary Will dispute after her death.

If your mother does not already have a Lasting Power of Attorney appointing persons who can make decisions for her if she loses capacity, it is very important that she makes one. There are twop types of Lasting Power of Attoney, one relating to decisions about property and finances and the other relating solely to decisions about health and welfare.

Your mother should take independent advice on who to appoint, but if you are chosen as one of the people she is happy to appoint, you will have some authority to say how her affairs are managed when she can no longer do it herself.

If your mother has already prepared a Lasting Power of Attorney appointing your sister as her sole attorney, your options may be limited.

If your mother loses mental capacity and does not have a Lasting Power of Attorney in place, you would need authority from the Court of Protection before you were able to have any say in the way that your mother's finances are managed.

If you are not being given access to your mother either in person or verbally, is there anybody else that you would trust to contact her? Does she have a solicitor, friend or GP who could contact her?

If the answer is "no”, it may be that your  only option is to contact social services to raise your concerns with an adult safeguarding officer. Before going down this route, you will need to think about the impact this may have on the relationship between you and your sister, or you and your mother for that matter.

Section 44 of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 allows prosecution for wilful neglect, which can include situations where a carer is depriving the person they are caring for with contact, or causing isolation or withdrawal, from services or supportive networks. Your sister's actions in preventing your mother from seeing you may be deemed to fall into this category.

If your mother has lost her mental capacity, a 'best interests' decision meeting can be set up through Social Services. The Local Authority Adult safeguarding team will help decide what actions are in your mother's best interests, and whether the current arrangements are really benefitting her.