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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I have a sibling who will not communicate with me because he is angry that I have power of attorney for our elderly mother, who is now in a nursing home. He is six years older than me. Two friends of mine have experienced the same painful problem; both tell me it is common.

I have gone out of my way to include my brother in decisions, saying HE can decide what money to use to pay Mother's bills: property? savings? CDs? He refuses to discuss any issues. I send detailed information about Mother's finances and care. He doesn't respond.

Since the immediate family lives several hundred miles from Mother, we continue to employ one of the nurses who cared for Mother when she lived at home. She visits Mother for extended times on a regular basis, and Mother really likes her. My brother has been unkind to this lady, refusing to speak to her when they meet in Mother's room.

I suggested to my brother that both of us be with Mother on her 90th birthday, knowing this would really please her. He refused -- or more accurately, he did not respond.

I am blessed to have a close family member who helps me regularly with Mother's care and financial decisions. She audits the checkbook regularly. This help and moral support make my situation bearable.

Oddly, I agree with my brother. I, too, think he should have had the power of attorney. He's smarter than I am, and he lives closer to Mother. I suggested as much to her several years ago, but she said, "No, I don't believe I want to do that." So, I do all the work and get no thanks. I don't mind the work, but I do mind the unkind treatment.

Do you have any suggestions? -- HURT BROTHER IN OHIO

DEAR HURT BROTHER: Only this: Keep accurate records of all transactions you make on your mother's behalf -- in case your brother decides to question your handling of her assets at a later date. And keep your distance. He is taking out his anger and jealousy not only on you, but also on others he perceives as being "close" to your mother. Trying to placate him won't help.

From your description of your older brother's behavior, I think your mother made a wise decision when she chose to give you the power of attorney.

Doing the right thing is not always pleasant. You are to be commended for being a dutiful son and for carrying out your mother's wishes.

DEAR ABBY: I am 68 years old and have been a fan of yours for many years. In a recent column, you mentioned that in some states, living together for a specific number of years constitutes common-law marriage. Would you be kind enough to publish a list of those states? -- J.D. IN TUCSON

DEAR J.D.: They are Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and the District of Columbia. However, the legal requirements for a valid common-law marriage vary from state to state. In some of them, more than cohabitation is required. Therefore, any couple considering common-law marriage should consult an attorney before assuming that their union is legal.

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