Hello everyone,

My mother in law’s elderly boyfriend recently swapped out his current car lease for a new one in September.

For starters, I really don’t think it was a good idea for a 91-year-old man to start a new lease, but that’s not really the focal point here.

Last week, he told my mother-in-law that he didn’t remember how to get to the corner grocery store. This is somewhere they’ve gone hundreds of times in their relationship and is literally a half mile away. He has admitted to himself he can no longer drive...a month after he started the lease.

A couple of things here of note: the guys at this dealership totally effed him over with the price of the car to begin with, so they wouldn’t give two hoots about hoodwinking an old man with cognitive issues into signing a very bad deal. Not to mention he thought it was up in September not realizing he had a full year left on his current lease. Again, he has a memory issues and cognitive decline going on.

Here is the crux of it all and thanks for reading so far.

I want to know if there are any legal grounds for terminating the lease due to a dementia or even an Alzheimer’s diagnosis if it can be proven he was suffering at the time he signed this contract. Otherwise, he is stuck with a lease that no one in their right mind would buy him out of.

Thanks, all.

Find Care & Housing
I actually question if there has to be a ore-existing diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer's.

I say this because of a case I was involved in concerning a car dealer.

in the court room, it finally came down to whether or not the buyer was capable of understanding the contract at the time it was signed. Because the buyer could be demonstrated to not understand sentences with multiple verbs and nouns...the jury could see the buyer didn't understand the contract. And that is a base requirement for a legal contract...that the buyer be capable of understanding it.

i believe that a lawyer going to court with him could easily demonstrate to a jury that he is not contractually competent.
Helpful Answer (12)
Reply to Katiekate
robinr Oct 16, 2019
Yeah, it may be small claims and you might pay a filing fee and could take the guy/represent him. There are few dealers that aren't despicable and boy did I learn some lessons the hard way about leasing and the whole game. Despicable is an understatement. NO ONE can read that microscopic font size in light gray ink let alone understand it. It's like you need to take an attorney and a CPA with you even when you DON'T have any level of cognitive impairment.
Is there any chance a credit card was involved? You could attempt to put that in dispute. I dealt with a slimey kid at a distant dealership when my elder father was looking for a car. It did seem like he really had every intention of going there to buy it so I had no objection to putting a $1K deposit down...but NOTHING was signed or agreed to writing. And when Dad changed his mind suddenly the oh so nice salesman was saying manipulative and threatening things saying the other dealer dad chose was probably not going to refund the $1K deposit we had put down...The dealer we chose to work with assured me nothing would or could happen, but to be sure to give a heads up to the credit card company and the charge was already was put in dispute and taken care of. Look in the state you're in for the revised code under consumer laws and you will probably find what you are looking for to defend the person. Just going to court can bring the dealership bad publicity, as can calling your local newschannel to do a story on elders getting they may change their mind...BUT there may be some laws protecting them as well, and the car has been driven and is off the lot...Still I think you've got a strong case.
Many good responses here.

My take: Start with the dealership, and work your way from the salesman all the way up to the owner. Dealerships have several levels of management in the sales department, so it will take time and patience (and a lot of repeating yourself) to get through to the top.

The request to annul the contract should be made in writing as well as in person (give a copy of the letter to each person spoken to). Be firm, but pleasant and courteous, and don't mention an attorney or contacting your local news until you get somewhat up the chain. Record each person's name and the time/date you spoke with them.

If you get all the way to the owner and still don't get results, then it's time for that call to the local news station's consumer assistance line. If they can't help, you'll probably end up consulting an attorney. Hopefully it won't get to that stage.

And in the meantime, the aggrieved gentleman should visit a physician and be evaluated for cognitive disorders. A diagnosis, including an opinion of likely date of onset, will be the best evidence for action in his favor.
Helpful Answer (8)
Reply to PeeWee57

I would just return the car and keys. The guy is 91, he doesn't need credit for anything. He is not stuck, return the car.
Helpful Answer (6)
Reply to DollyMe

Is there a written diagnosis that is dated PRIOR to the date he signed the contract?
Does he have a Guardian?
If he has a Guardian then the Guardian should be able to get him out of the contract. (I am sure a Judge would find that a person diagnosed with dementia and one with a Guardian can not legally enter into a contract.)
If this person does not have a Guardian or an official diagnosis it might be something that needs to be taken up with an Elder Care Lawyer
Helpful Answer (6)
Reply to Grandma1954
Swataz Oct 15, 2019
Thanks for the reply.

No guardian, no. And I am pretty sure there has been no official diagnosis yet and any one that comes now will be be after the fact. This man is stubborn and prior to this probably would bristle at the idea of a doctor telling him he has dementia or anything like it. That will definitely not work in his favor.
If you can prove that the gentleman was legally incompetent to make a contract through mental incapacity at the time, the contract is void. For a contract to be valid, all parties to it have to be capable of forming the contract.

But I don't know how you can prove it. Any medical records to go on? A lawyer might be interested in the challenge.
Helpful Answer (6)
Reply to Countrymouse
Swataz Oct 15, 2019
I love the guy, but I am not sure of anything at the moment. He may have had a diagnosis, but as you or others have stated, if it was not before the transaction, his legal footing is almost nil.

I know he is mentally incapacitated and even HE knows it now. Sadly, that probably won't be enough and what's the difference if he loses the money for the lease if the legal fees match that total? LOL
See 1 more reply
Think twice about just turning the car in if he has any assets - - if he does, or gets monthly benefits beyond his Social Security, the leasing company could go after him for default payment...

Since he is 91, does he look 91 - - is it obvious that he's quite elderly ??? Regardless of his mental state, although certainly memory impairment would be suspected, if he had a year to go on his prior lease, it would have been FRAUDULENT for the leasing company to not be clear about that and to press for a new lease (something they are in the business to do). That might be one point of law.

But the other point of law may be to contact Adult Protective Services because there's a lot of ELDER FINANCIAL ABUSE going on and it seems like you could make a case for the leasing company to have known better to not take advantage of him.
Helpful Answer (5)
Reply to CarolLynn

Does this man have any family? They should be the ones tackling this issue. As nice as he may be and however much you like him, you really have no legal standing. If there is no one, you could try to get POA or guardianship (may be too early for that), if you really care about him and want to take on this burden.

As for the lease, check this out:

Just stopping payment or attempting to return it isn't likely to work. They can repo the car AND still send it off to collections. Ruining his credit isn't the big issue, it is the hassle that will ensue. Given how car dealers work, there isn't a lot of hope for getting out of this lease. He had no Dx, no one was in control, etc., so how are they to know? There are plenty of 90+ drivers who are still competent AND still okay with driving. Funny thing - my license is up for renewal and they are requiring me to come in (usually the first 5 year renewal can be done online, but not for me! I am only 66!) Apparently the old thoughts stick around - anyone over 60 is a danger?

If he has family, is there someone who would be willing to take over the lease and car? If not, the two options I can see from reading the above link is 1) attempt early termination (it will cost him, if it is even an option) or 2) attempt a lease takeover.

If he has no family, you can attempt to help him through this. What is his take on it all? If he has no issue continuing to pay but shouldn't be driving, focus on stopping the driving and perhaps MIL or someone can do the driving while the lease is still in place. He would still have to pay for it and have it maintained. Never really understood leasing - seems expensive, mileage is limited, you end up with nothing at the end of the lease!

I detest any car buying - with very few exceptions the whole process is distasteful! It isn't always the salesperson who is the dick. Others in the process can be jerks as well. The high pressure sales are nasty. When trying to find a car for my then 17yo son, we went together to find a good used one, preferably within a certain $ amount. I told the young sales guy we wanted a 4WD (for winter issues), don't care so much what it looks like so long as it runs good and is within X amount. He says he knows just the car and went off to move it up for us and presented us with an RX7!!! A co-worker told me we should have bought it as it was a unique 4WD RX7!!! Of course my son's eyes lit up, but NFW! I had to co-sign and told him NO. The sales pitch included Oh look it has passive restraints! Yeah, right. It likely would have been wrapped around a tree within the first week! When son tried to plead and I asked about having 12" snow while he's at work, he says I can pick him up. WHAT? I do that now, so why don't we just save the $ and not buy anything!! What an idiot salesman! Of all the places we went, HE was the one who kept calling us. No way would I buy anything from THAT clown!
Helpful Answer (5)
Reply to disgustedtoo
robinr Oct 18, 2019
I have learned so much about the process all the hard way. A nightmare. Would try hard not to lease again; know now that the final price on the lease is non-negotiable for a buy-out at the end; time to negotiate is before signing. Also don't need to do a buy out with dealer, you can deal directly with the car finance company. Check loans at credit unions not the bank...the banks are often in cohoots with the dealers and the dealers get a cut of the interest...NEVER EVER EVER go in person to negotiate. CALL and get the out the door price, hold them to it, and if they try to play games walk out.
My, whether dementia is involved or not, you can almost always get out of a bad situation if you're persistent and seem sure of yourself. It doesn't hurt to be right. Just be very clear that this new lease will not be paid, and you are willing to complain loudly in public, and don't give up. It won't take long. Complaining works.
Helpful Answer (5)
Reply to SFdaughter

Maybe call APS? Adult Protective Service, for elder abuse/fraud.

And as far as complaining loudly as SFdaughter, recommends, YES, what a great idea, and clearly state painting a picture of the very real possibility of a car wreck with multiple fatalities and it coming out in the news on TV and newspaper about a demented 90+ yr. old having been leased a vehicle from SUCH AND SUCH dealership........ saying (to the dealership), WOW, what great publicity you would get !!!!!!

Oh and in my local area, there is a TV station that helps people resolve issues... it's Better Call Behnken. Maybe there is some type of service in the OP's area which could help with that.
Helpful Answer (4)
Reply to Myownlife

He will need to get a medical diagnosis of dementia established. Then, take a copy of the medical paperwork as well as mom's boyfriend to see the manager at the car dealership. Explain that boyfriend can no longer drive since his dementia impairs his ability to remember where he is going. Ask the dealership to void the contract. Offer to have boyfriend pay for the portion of the contract he used the car. If you have a problem with dealership, contact Better Business Bureau and a lawyer. Only mentally competent people can sign contracts.
Helpful Answer (4)
Reply to Taarna

See All Answers

Ask a Question

Subscribe to
Our Newsletter