A family dispute about elder's legal affairs

mary_228March 30, 2005

Anyone have experience w/legal wrangling over elder's affairs?

My FIL established trusts, health car proxies, etc w/ the help of my SIL (his middle daughter) several years ago, and now the other SIL (his oldest child, we'll call her SIL#2) is filing legal papers to get guardianship of MIL (suffers from dementia in assisted living place near SIL#2 ), essentially taking it away from FIL. In another filing, she is seeking conservatorship of FIL. This will give her sole authority over his assets, but not personal affairs, whatever that means.

He has agreed to this and has asked SIL not to fight this, that he just wants to "die in peace". He is 85 yrs old, and NOT in bad health. Lives in the independent living wing of the same facility as MIL.

SIL#2 is notoriously bad at handling her own financial affairs and we feel that she is making a mad grab for the money, which is substantial. Yet, she is a frequent visitor (we live 800 miles away) and helps to feed MIL. OTOH, in order to request guardianship, she took MIL to 4 doctors to have her claimed incompetent, which was humiliating and painful for FIL to witness. We believe that SIL#2 has been mainipulating and verbally abusing FIL to agree to her plans.

Now we are faced with the prospect of hiring lawyers to fight this and protect Dad's original plans (and his assets for their nursing home care). Court date later in April. We'll likely be stuck with these legal costs.

This is such a sad way to spend one's final years. Any advice from those who have been there, done that?

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Mary, I sure liked that idea of having another person on the papers, as someone suggested on another forum.

Here's a link that you find useful, but I honestly am not sure if the law is the same in your state as it is here in CA. But let's think positively, and I hope it helps.

And as for "hiring lawyers", don't make that sounds like an evil thing. You really need to sit down and consult with someone ASAP, and get someone on YOUR side. Your SIL has already done that, obviously, and you need to defend the situation, or she'll continue to steamroller right over you. Contact your local bar and get a referal to a lawyer who specializes in elser law. It will be worthwhile.

Good luck, and let us know what happens.


Here is a link that might be useful: Elderlaw newspaper column.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2005 at 7:58PM
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Once trusts and other legal documents have been drawn up it is not so easy to have them over-ridden. It is expensive and requires a lot of legal wrangling. If the eldest SIL has difficulty managing her own money the court will likely take a very dim view of her present legal action.

Also, substantial assets of the elderly are monitored very closely when it comes time to enter a nursing home. There is a substantial "look back" period, so any "last minute" grabs for assets by family are quickly sniffed out and stifled.

In our state all civil matters must go to arbitration before being sent to the court room. See an attorney and candidly discuss your concerns and options. It bothers me that lawyers have acquired such a bad reputation. They are informed representatives of their clients, WITHOUT EMOTIONAL INVOLVEMENT. They provide clear, concise, unbiased advice. It will be money well spent and your questions/concerns will be professionally addressed. I would suggest you see an attorney who is well versed in "elder law".

Good luck.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2005 at 6:56AM
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An update: The elder care lawyer we have "retained" advises us that the guardianship can be most easily fought, but the conservatorship will likely succeed. My FIL says this is what he wants and will be very credible on the witness stand if it comes to that.

Amazingly, the conservator only has to do an annual accounting to the court and pretty much no one scrutinizes it as there are thousands of these in NJ. MY DH suggested co-conservator but FIL says let it alone. DH also shared his worry that SIL #2 is mentally unstable and financially inept, but it didn't have any effect on FIL.

Now DH feels they have to at least get some objection to all this in the courts in case of future legal battles. Any thoughts?

    Bookmark   April 7, 2005 at 11:18AM
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Medicaid looks back 3 years at assets (and transfers of such) if someone is going into a nursing home, as an FYI. I am not sure how they handle it if they discover that assets have been transferred within this three year period.

If your father-in-law is competent (which it sounds like he is), and this is the way he wants to handle his affairs, you might be hard-pressed to change that fact. You could spend a lot of money and anguish fighting it out amongst the family.

However, I would consult a second attorney for another opinion.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2005 at 4:45PM
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Sometimes, bringing up these old posts can be a good thing. In this case, the advice and information is good.

One thing that anyone in this situation should remember is that:

They didn't have the money in the past
They don't have the money now,
And if they don't get any later.....well, so be it. Is money really worth getting the FIL upset? If all the money gets spent, then what is done is done. An elderly person could die tomorrow or the next day. All the legal wrangling would have been for nothing.

Sure, it might mean preserving the monies longer, but is it worth it...for HIM, not YOU!!

    Bookmark   August 29, 2011 at 11:23AM
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