Dear Annie: My soon-to-be ex-wife and I live on the West Coast, while my 92-year-old mother lives in a senior facility in New York. She is happy there. She is still mentally sharp, but her body is starting to become frail. My wife has become the primary caregiver for Mom. She visits a few times a year and pampers Mom with pedicures, foot massages, etc. She also has Mom’s power of attorney for her financial affairs, and hence the dilemma.
My wife had an affair during her visits to see my mother. We have been separated for two months, and I plan to finalize the divorce within the year. My wife doesn’t want me to tell my mother, because she fears it will break Mom’s heart. She may be right, but my wife has complete control of Mom’s finances, and because of factors in our breakup (dishonesty, lying, cheating, etc.), I don’t trust her to do the right thing with my mother’s money, especially if the divorce gets ugly, which is entirely possible. It also could jeopardize my brother’s portion of an inheritance.
My current situation does not allow me to travel frequently, and I haven’t seen Mom in 18 months. I call her once a week. My brother has his hands full with his wife, who has Alzheimer’s. I would like to remove power of attorney from my wife, but I know Mom would be completely devastated by the loss of her “only daughter.” I don’t want to hurt my mother. What do you suggest? – Conflicted
Dear Conflicted: Your wife can withdraw as your mother’s financial power of attorney as part of the divorce settlement, or a judge could order it. But you also could ask Mom to sign a new POA, giving authority to you or your brother, and it will supersede any prior POA on file. We understand that you don’t want to hurt her, but your mother will likely find out about the divorce at some point, and it is more respectful to tell her than to deceive her. (You can be vague about the details.) And go see your mother already. Time is short, and it’s been too long.