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My adopted brother has always had a problem with "getting by" on his own & has a pattern of borrowing money from my parents. My father passed in '04 & left my mom well-off..said brother has never really been an active member of the family, living abroad for years, then in another city. When my father was diagnosed with lung cancer, he & his then wife moved closer to the family with financial help from my parents. After my dad passed, he & the wife divorced & he then took up with a woman 20 yrs his junior w/3 kids..she ended up pregnant & they married after his divorce was final from first wife. As he has never been one to make smart decisions, this whole scenario created a huge financial burden on top of the debt problems he already had. Starting in '08 he has constantly "borrowed" money from my mother to the tune of hundreds of thousands! There is a Promissory Note in place for some of it but this pattern just continues..my mom is of sound mind but this really takes a toll on her as she goes from one minute thinking she is "taking care of his family" to the realization that he is taking advantage of her. Mom has a granny flat on our property & I & my husband to all of the caretaking, maintenance, etc. Since mom moved in with us, my brother has yet to visit or lend a hand (she moved here in '07). Yes, I understand it's her money to do with what she pleases, but we've encountered a couple instances where she has over-gifted the annual allowable amount & we are consulting her accountant regarding this. My issue is that I feel that this borders on elder abuse & I don't know how to or if I should even intervene & what really scares me is when she is gone & he plows through his inheritance & then comes knocking on my door wanting us to support him! This whole thing is a real bone of contention between my mom & I & has really strained our relationship. She has become pretty emotionless regarding the matter & will not discuss it with us unless pushed. Everytime we have the discussion, she says she isn't going to give anymore, that she realizes he is just taking advantage, but a few months later she's passing on thousands to him. I just really don't know what to do anymore & any help/advise would be greatly appreciated.

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It's not a dementia issue, is it - this is your mother's lifelong habit. Not a good one, either, not good for her or - with the benefit of hindsight, of course - for your adopted brother. I had an aunt like this: she adopted two boys, as babies, after ectopic pregnancy made her sterile; and I am sorry to say that one predeceased her having bled her half dry and the other took many, many years and great good fortune with his wife and children before he got his life together. She was an intelligent and practical woman who ring-fenced financial provision for her old age; but every other penny was spent bailing them out, decade after decade. Grey hairs in sorrow to the grave…

How's your relationship with your adopted brother? Are you on speaking terms?

The thing is, it sounds as if this isn't - yet, anyway - a financial anxiety as such. Your mother is still comfortably solvent, yes? Not about to run out of cash? Not about to start costing you money? What you're concerned about, then, is the exploitative nature of her relationship with her adopted child; and what strikes me as worse is the deterioration because of it in her relationship with you. I think you're right to be worried.

Have a close look at the numbers, if you can, and see if the money's getting uncomfortably tight. If it isn't, set your mind at rest on that point at least, and focus on how best to act on what you feel about what your brother is up to.

Well, it's not nice. It's not what good sons do. But then he's not a good son, he's just a son who is loved by his mother. It would be no surprise if her indulgence of him is rooted in guilt. I suspect that parents of adopted children, who take them in, lavish love and care on them, and still have to watch them crash from one disaster to another, feel an appalling sense of failure. It's very unjust.

I don't suppose there is even the remotest chance of getting her to talk to a counsellor about this..? I'd be astonished if you said she might agree to that, but you never know!

I think it's too late to try to persuade her to stop bailing him out. Which means that the other avenue is to try to persuade him to knock it off. If you do communicate with him, and you can do it without making him run blubbing to his mother, see what you can do to make him appreciate how revolting it is for a grown man to be leeching off his elderly, vulnerable parent. Tom Hulce's character in "Parenthood" springs to mind. It is, to be simplistic, disgusting. And I don't suppose that is how he likes to think of himself. There might be a chink in the armour, there.

I expect that you do expect, at some point, to need POA or guardianship as you continue to care for your mother. You need to get a grip on brother's behaviour before that happens on simple humanitarian grounds: he's addicted to handouts from his mother and if nothing changes in the interim he's going to be going cold turkey once your mother's finances are no longer in her hands, whether or not it's you who's handling them.

It's very, very difficult. In your approach to your mother, keep in mind how she might feel about your brother's life - it's probably a source of great sadness to her, and therefore an extremely tender point. Go gently with her.
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Another question...does granny pay rent, maintenance, etc.? If not, realize that if she has funds she should be paying for these services...either she pays you and your husband or service people. You may feel less resentment of your adopted brother if you are not carrying the whole load for mom's care. Also, going foward, she's going to need more, not less care. Establish that her funds are what need to pay for this.
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"They" say that people can't take advantage of us without our permission and in the case of your mom giving the brother money this is true. Whether she wants to give him money or not isn't the issue. The issue is that she IS giving him money and this ensures that he'll come back for more when he runs out. Stop the flow of money and his motivation to come back for more disappears. You just have to figure out how to go about this. I don't know how you can stop it if your mom's a willing participant in her own fleecing.

As for the brother coming knocking on your door looking for a handout that should be the least of your worries unless you're concerned that you may give in and start giving him money after mom's gravy train stops. What difference does it make if he will want a hand-out? Does that mean he gets one?

Any legal action you feel you have to take make sure it comes out of mom's money as you're looking at thousands of dollars in legal fees if you go for conservatorship.
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There's no need to worry about your adopted brother hitting you up for money after your mother is gone. Just decide it's not going to happen - period. You don't owe him any explanations. A firm "no way" will do it. Nor do you need to feel any obligation to support his perpetual financial irresponsibility.

I assume you don't hold a Durable POA?

This is a tough issue because theoretically your mother has the right to use her money as she pleases, unless she's been diagnosed with dementia and isn't able to realize what she's doing. But your adopted brother isn't participating in her care, just sponging off her.

The ideal solution would be for her to allow you to handle her finances, but I doubt she'd allow that.

While I wouldn't normally wouldn't recommend conservatorship, I think in this case Pam's recommendation is right. But expect that your adopted brother will fight it. And therein lies the pitfall: the court may appoint an independent conservator if the judge recognizes that the family is not in agreement.

Definitely consult with an elder law attorney before taking this action.

Sorry - wish there were some better ways of dealing with this. But I don't think your mother would voluntarily surrender control of her finances.
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You petition for conservatorship, that's about the only way. It's very common in early dementia for the patient to hide or not pay bills, but give money away foolishly to any charity or bum who appears at their doorstep.
With mom, we took her check book away, her ATM card and we forwarded all her house mail to us instead of the ALF. We established online access to her accounts for surveillance purposes. Ugly but necessary.
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