How do I deal with ignorant siblings
Parents give a child power of attorney - do siblings have a right to information?
- The parents' right to information is passed on to the siblings as co-heirs.
- A special relationship of trust between parents and authorized child can preclude a right to information.
- Courts decide according to the circumstances of the individual case.
If there are several siblings in a family, the children usually have different degrees of relationship to their parents. Often there is a strong bond and regular contact with one of the children, while other children have only occasional dealings with their parents.
If the connection between parent and child is close, the parents often give the child powers of attorney that enable the child to represent the parents comprehensively. The subject of such powers of attorney is often the authority to carry out banking transactions for the parents and also to withdraw money from the parents' account.
Before the occurrence of the inheritance, siblings must accept that parents only give one child power of attorney and that the authorized child also uses this power of attorney to act on behalf of the parents. Neither the parents nor the authorized child are accountable to third parties in this regard before the inheritance occurs.
However, this may change after the inheritance has occurred. If all children have become heirs, the unauthorized children may be able to clarify what happened on the basis of the power of attorney. In particular, the children who were more distant from their parents then want to know from the children who were already provided with a power of attorney and who were active during their parents' lifetime, which transactions were carried out and for what purposes the funds raised with the help of the power of attorney Banks withdrawn were used.
Courts must clarify claims for information
The background to such disputes is often the suspicion of the siblings that the child with a power of attorney has already secured amounts of money from the parents' account during their lifetime and that the inheritance will be distributed unevenly among the siblings in the long term.
Such an assumption by the siblings is often only based on vague assumptions. In order to create clarity and to check the basis of possible compensation claims, the siblings need information from the child who acted with the help of the power of attorney.
If such information is not available on a voluntary basis, then there is the possibility of asserting a right to information in court. In fact, in the past courts had to deal more often with the question of whether children with powers of attorney had to give their siblings and co-heirs information about which legal transactions were carried out with the help of the power of attorney.
It is not possible to generally answer whether and to what extent such claims to information exist. As is so often the case in law, “it depends”.
The authorized representative has an obligation to provide information
Basically, a sibling can claim information as co-heirs against the sibling authorized by the parents from Section 666 of the German Civil Code (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch) and the law of engagement. According to § 666 BGB the following applies:
The agent is obliged to provide the client with the necessary information, to provide information on the status of the business on request and to give an account after the order has been carried out.
In this case, the agent is the co-heir with the power of attorney. The clients are the parents who have given one child a power of attorney. After the death of the parents and the occurrence of the inheritance, the heirs take the position of the parents as legal successors. Basically, it is the heirs who have a right to information from the authorized representative (even if he is a co-heir) in accordance with Section 666 of the German Civil Code (BGB).
Normally, an unauthorized child, as a sibling with a power of attorney, can request information about Section 666 of the German Civil Code (BGB) after the inheritance has occurred.
Exceptionally there is no right to information
However, courts have repeatedly ruled that such a right to information is not given among siblings if there is a special relationship of trust between the parents as the client and the child as the authorized representative (e.g. OLG Cologne, judgment of 19.09.2012, 16 U 196/11) .
In these cases, courts deny that there is a legal contractual relationship between parents and the authorized child. Without a contractual relationship, however, there is also no right to information that could be passed on to the co-heirs.
Insofar as parents have shown “special trust” in the child, there is no right to information. In the context of a special relationship of trust, the parents are usually not required to provide information or accountability. Rather, the authorized child should not be exposed to the unilateral risk in retrospect, "Having to specify and justify expenses more precisely" (so OLG Cologne, loc. cit.).
Such a relationship of trust that precludes the right to information has been accepted by the courts in the relationship between parents and their children, between spouses or partners among themselves, or in the relationship between grandmother and grandchildren.
To the extent that the relationship between the principal and the authorized representative was particularly close during the principal's lifetime, according to this case law there is much to be said against a right to information after the occurrence of the inheritance.
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