Mom's children are fighting over her money. Where should I turn for an outside voice to end this fighting?

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My mom is 85 years old and running out of money. I am her married daughter - age 56 and in charge of her finances. She does not have a pension, nor did my dad. The house is paid for but was in rundown condition and needed a lot of repairs. My dad was never gainfully employed and my mom has had to work for the last 40 years. My dad retired from being a handyman at the age of 55 - over 30 years ago. Mom had an inheritance of $30,000 that grew into $60,000 over the course of 30 years. I have handled all of the family financial decisions for the last 10 years. My dad was sick and ended up in a nursing home 4 years ago and I applied for and got them on title 19 (after being denied and then reapplying). Dad died 2 years ago. My older divorced brother, age 58 moved in with our mom and was supposed to pay rent of $400.00 per month but didn't for the first 18 months. He claims he didn't understand the arrangement. He works full time and is very active with his social life on the weekends and is not a companion for mom. However, he has done a lot of work around the house and makes it safe for mom to live at home. My husband and I have worked beside him on most of these home repairs. A sister, age 51 moved in also 8 months ago and was supposed to pay rent but doesn't. She buys my mom's food and makes her one meal a day. She also drives her to the doctor, etc. She works 30 hours per week. The problem is mom pays all of the bills including taxes on the house (6,000 per year), heat, electric, telephone, cable and the internet. Mom's unemployment is running out in 3 months. She worked up until age 84. I tried to prepare the family for the loss in income 7 months ago but it just resulted in a big screaming scene where my sister accused me of spending all of mom's money (on house repairs, including a dangerous mold and water problem) to insure a better inheritance for myself. Basically, she said that if I didn't spend down mom's money, she wouldn't be in a position of running out of money. Its a catch 22 situation. In order to stay in the house, repairs had to be made. Nothing was spent that wasn't necessary. The garage was falling down, I was going to apply for a reverse mortgage but the bank officer told me that the condition of the house would be a problem. I am in charge of the money, have tried to move mom to assisted living but her request was to stay in the home. In order to stay in the home it had to be safe and money had to be spent. How do I get my siblings to understand that they need to pitch in more money in order to live in a nice 3 bedroom house with all utilities covered for them? This has put a big strain on the family relationship because I am constantly asking them how much they've paid mom lately, and asking them to pay more, and they think I am meddling in their business. However, my mom pays for the internet and doesn't use it - it's for my brother and sister. Come on, where can any person live for $400.00 a month (or for the cost of groceries) and have everything they need taken care of for them? My siblings have both been known to come home after work and tell mom that she shouldn't talk to them because they need peace and quiet!! After the last fight (Christmas day - of course) my mom got so upset that she decided to take the money responsibility away from me because it is hard on our relationship and she thinks the bill paying is stressing me out. I am stressed by what I consider to be free loaders (and they are my siblings) taking advantage of mom. I want them to pay more money to help out. They don't see it as free loading. They see it as providing a service for mom, and they both are providing a service. However, Mom's money will be gone in less than one year and will not have enough money for the 2012 house taxes. Who can mediate this for the family? My job was to take care of mom's finances. I was pointed the POA. Trying to do the best for mom is driving a wedge between me and my siblings. In order to make peace, I could just stop asking them to help out but in one year there will be a crisis. Any advice?

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Top Answer
In one year or less there will be a financial crisis. Seniors without pensions, life insurance from a spouse, or other assets eventually run out of money. You and your sibs can argue until the cows come come on their own, and it won't change the fact that there is only so much money left. It doesn't sound like your mother needs care. For example, qualifying for Medicaid probably wouldn't be a big benefit as things stand now. You might look into other program she could qualify for. Start with your state's Department of Aging website.

Have a family meeting. Perhaps you can locate a family mediator to help you conduct it. Focus on working together to figure out how Mom is going to continue paying her own expenses. It is pointless arguing about who is going to inherit what, when their won't be anything to inherit! Focus on what to do next, not whose fault anything is.

Good luck!
I agree, once the money is gone the rats will abandon the ship and you'll have to find a place for mom to live. It's terrible, but I don't see anyway to get around your siblings and their free loading. I would however, NOT pay for the internet anymore. You're paying the bills, so that is something you should have control over. If they want it, they have to pay for it. It's a small thing, but at this point it's better than nothing. Sorry.
If they weren't living with her, would Mom be able to afford to live alone? Be upfront with them about how much Mom will be able to pay towards bills (I have the gas & electric on price averaging so every bill is within $10 of the last month). Maybe making a list of all the household expenses and dividing the bills up among the people living there would work instead of them paying rent (unless they're not responsible bill payers). Assisted living can be very expensive over $3000 a month so $6000 a year isn't too bad, but if she doesn't have it everyone needs to step up in some way.
I had the same thought as naheaton: f Mom doesn't use the internet, that is one bill that can go right now. My bet is you are not going to get these guys to pay anything. I would use Mom's money to talk to an attorney on her behalf and see what information you can gather about how to move forward. Would Mom sign an actual lease with these guys? With FPOA, you could be her agent -- but she would have to agree. Can the house qualify for the reverse mortgage now? That may be another wrinkle not worth causing, but might be worth knowing what your options are. I just spent a bunch of my Dad's money to make his home safer for him, in the last 18 months. He now lives with us but boy did I hear it from his girlfriend and my sister. Good luck!
Here's the thing: ALL of you are headed for disaster, in one boat. Anything any one of you does -- you included -- that frames the situation as if you and your sibs are not on the same side of the problem (they say you're a spendthrift, you say they're freeloading, both imply that the other is selfish) is contrary to steering the boat away from the falls. Insist on that way of looking at things and be very disciplined about keeping the conversation solution-oriented, even when they don't get it or actively resist it at first. You can find a family mediator or long-term planner in various ways, to bring in a third-party perspective. A good professional of those sorts will insist on the notion of a MUTUAL problem too.
I think it is essential to focus on the problem of how you all are going to keep a roof over mom's head - this problem is owned by all of you (not just you) and you are all going to have to work to solve it. Are your sibs capable of looking at and understanding the financial situation? I ask this, because my own mother was very secretive about money, trusted only my brother, but seemed to expect my sisters and me to "understand" her finances without any information to work with. Alwayslearning is really on target.
Go to court get an out side person to be a mediator then it is out of everyone's hands
Personally, I am a little dubious about atttempts to mediate family finances. Any such agreement is not a solution since deadbeats will promise anything. They believe believe that problems will just go away and mom will not kick us out anyhow. You need to show you are serious. Step one is likely a vistit to your local Legal Aid office.The best solutions to the problems that you wrote are enforceable solutions. If the folks there cannot help you they can certainly send you to someone who can. You may also find a source for financial assistance at your local welfare office. In some areas there are volunteer lawyers who will work on your preblem but not every place has such a group. If you have not done so you really need a Power of Attorney (often called a POA). Standard forms are for sale at any stationary store for less that $5.00 and your bank is usually available to provide a Notary free from charge. you cannot expect your mother to get tough with your siblings but with a POA, you most certainly can.. Good luck to you, Mam11224. You have recognized the problems and that is a big step forward. A little more push is all that is necessary.
Thank you to everyone who replied. I can't tell you the dark place I was in when I decided to post and to let everyone see what was in my heart. My family is like a bunch of mini tornadoes each going around in their own area creating havoc. Occasionally one tornado touches another one and WOW - the result is catastrophic. Sometimes I have to remind myself that you can't make sense out of nonsense - and perhaps some of the issues rest within us individually and have to do with control, abandonment, resentment, or other problems. Perhaps the issues would be best looked at by a therapist. I tried to explain to the family the financial situation over 10 months ago. That was one of the first mini tornadoes. I am the POA; unfortunately so is my sister. I will contact the court or an attorney and see what can be done. An outsider needs to be involved in this. It is tearing my mother apart; she won't call me when either my brother or sister are in the house and there won't be much of Easter or family get togethers. This is a horrible way for mom's last years to be spent. I owe it to my mother to push forward even though the stress in unbelievable. I will also look for a local support group as my husband is really quite tired of the family drama. And, I will continue to look to this group for advice. Again, thank you to all who replied.
Do you know what a Double-Code-Blue is? It's when a person is forced to stay on life support to prevent death until the family and their lawyers come out of court fighting over their inheritance. I felt so bad for the woman whose face was rotted away by cancer but trapped in her rotting body while her kids fought over her money. But then I realized that she raised those children to be like that. Love your mother. Love your siblings. Do what is best for your mother and protect yourself from the negativity inherent in your situation. Be good to you, but don't expect your siblings to put your feelings or their own ahead of their need to grab your mother's money. Forgive them, for they know not what they do. Good Luck. God Bless You.

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