How can I obtain legal services after losing my job?

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Three years ago, I moved into my mom's home to act as her caregiver. Fortunately, my job as a professor allowed me to work at home for the most part. During this time I have sacrificed so much of my life. As my brother told me, I have done more for my mom than 99% of the population would ever have done. A few months back, my mother nearly died. Fortunately, she pulled through. Now, my mom requires medical attention that I am unable to provide, and so now she resides at a nursing facility. Soon, my mom’s insurance will no longer cover her stay at the nursing facility…


My siblings and I had a meeting to discuss how to finance my mother’s stay at the nursing facility. I was absolutely astonished at the words that came out of my siblings’ mouths. Never in my life have I witnessed such selfishness and greediness. They want to sell off all of my mother’s assets to pay for her stay nursing at the nursing facility including all of the property and house my mother wanted me to inherit.


I have no problems with selling off whatever I have or will get to provide the best for my mother. The problem lies here: I was recently laid off and I am struggling to pay my bills. Also, having a disability is only making my financial situation worse.


Now, my siblings want to sell my mom’s house and are literally “going to through me out in the street” when I have essentially no money, no job, absolutely nothing. If you can imagine working 60 to 80 hours per week while taking care of my mom, such as taking her to all of her doctor’s appointments, taking care of her meds, waking up every hour of the night to assist my mom to get up to use the bathroom, etc. I think you get the idea. Last fall, my schedule was such that I was not able to sleep on Sunday and Tuesday nights. I became so exhausted and ill that I began throwing up blood. I did all this and more while my other siblings did not do a single thing.


And now, in the lowest moment of my life, my siblings want to throw me out in the street. I desperately need legal help to defend myself in some way, but I cannot even afford attorney fees. Do I have any options?


After all I have done for my siblings, is this really going to happen to me? I feel very embarrassed and ashamed to bring these questions here. I cannot believe my siblings are so bound by money. I wish I had a better understanding of law. I have looked at a few legal documents and I am unable to interpret them. It’s as if these documents were written in another language. I would welcome any suggestions.

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Have you applied for unemployment? How about SSDI for disability? You sound eligible for subsidized housing with disability, no income and impending homelessness. Contact your county social services so they can help you.
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Call Medicaid. Many states allow a caregiving child to remain in the home if they provided care for a period of two years and medically necessary.

Who is Mom's POA?
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loveumom1 - You express shock and disapproval of your siblings' "selfishness and greediness" in wanting to sell your mother's assets, but it's not at all clear to me what you expected them to say, or to propose. What other options are there for paying for your mother's care? What would they have suggested if they weren't being greedy and selfish?

I think in most families, paying for the parent's care out of the parent's assets would be the obvious course of action, the one everybody would agree with. I know that in my family, if my mother had assets, my siblings would insist her assets be used for her care before reaching into their own pockets to help out.

It is a very unfortunate aspect of caregiving that the ones who aren't doing it rarely give a thought to the costs incurred by the one who is doing it. They almost never think that their siblings' sacrifices obligate them to do anything or provide any compensation. In your situation, maybe you could make the case to your siblings that you have been left destitute and disabled after caring for Mom, and some part of her assets should be set aside for your support while you get back on your feet again. The problem with that idea, though, is that if your mother's remaining assets are not enough to pay for her care and she ends up needing Medicaid, that may cause the look-back rule to be invoked and result in a penalty.

It's possible that your local Legal Aid or non-profit legal services agency has somebody on staff with expertise in Medicaid and elder law issues. I would research that first if I were you. You need to find out whether your mother can get Medicaid without having the home sold or whether you can qualify for an exception to keep the home due to having been an in-home caregiver for several years or being disabled yourself. There are exceptions to the Medicaid home lien rules, but they vary from state to state, so you need to find a lawyer in your state to guide you through. Good luck!
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You can apply for unemployment if you were laid off. Or apply for SSDI as others stated above if you qualify. Were you tenured as a professor? 
My siblings wouldn't just kick me out on the street, & I am hoping yours wouldn't either. If you talk with them, might they help you out until you get back on your feet? You are super stressed now- as are your family. Take a step back and just breathe...
Eventually if your mom needs Medicaid her assets will have to be used for her care.
You have time to work something out with your family. You can also apply for subsidized housing if your income is low. You can begin that process or research it on the internet.
Good luck!
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Thanks to those who raised the important issue of the OP remaining in the house since she was a caregiver. I missed that when I posted.
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loveumom1- don't feel guilty about burdening us with your whole complicated story. The better we understand your circumstances, the more we can respond with replies that make sense in your actual circumstances, and not waste our time and yours with replies that don't make sense for you.
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loveumom1, for many of us our retirement years are not what we'd hoped for or expected. My cousin and his wife had raised their children and were talking about selling their business and traveling a lot when she was diagnosed with a rare disabling disease. She can no longer walk. She is totally incontinent. Her vision is failing. This is not how they expected things to be at this point in their lives.

Because I married an man older than I, I expected to outlive him. We were not expecting that I would spend the final 10 years of our time together with me being his caregiver through the dementia journey. With both of us being professionals and making decent money, I fully expected to have some decent money in my retirement. Ha! Not even a life insurance policy. It is very expensive to take care of someone with dementia.

You have had a triple whammy. You now have a disability. You were very lucky to have a professional-level job you could do mostly from home, and now that has disappeared. And the security of where you live is being threatened. Yikes! This is sure not where you expected to be at this point in your life. And none of these catastrophes were your fault. Vent away! Rage against this terrible situation. If you get stuck on "rage" and have difficulty taking action, I urge you to find a counselor. Many of us on this site can relate!

You are looking for another perspective. I'm going to give you mine. If it is not applicable at all, disregard it.

You talk about your family traditions and your cultural heritage. It sounds like a dysfunctional situation to me. It took your father years to realize he could pursue his own life. But he thought his children should turn over every cent they made to him. What about their right to pursue their own lives? Good for your brother for pursuing the college education he wanted. Bad for your parents for burdening the rest of the children with that pursuit.

You cared for your mother to the point of being physically ill yourself. But all she had to do was shed a few tears and you couldn't bring yourself to do what would have been best for both of you. What was that about?

Your mother wanted to give you (actually, pay you) $50,000 for the care you were providing. She was getting by cheaply for the services she was getting for three years. And you refused to accept this. WHAT?! Why on earth could you not see that you were worth this and entitled to it?

I blame your parents far more for the situation you are in than I blame your siblings. (BTW, are they all brothers?) Somehow you have been raised to be a martyr. It astonishes you that your siblings don't share the notion of "sacrifice" to this extent.

You think that your siblings should appreciate that you gave up so much of your life and that you worked yourself to utter exhaustion and physical illness caring for your mother. I think you should not have done those things. I think you made unhealthy choices and it isn't realistic to expect admiration and financial support for making those choices.

You need to stand up for yourself and put your obvious intelligence toward getting on your feet again. Research how much lead time you will have to be given before you can be forced out. This varies by location, but no landlord or owner or POA can say, "You have to be out by next Friday." Some notice must be given.

Are you on disability? Do you have a case worker? Often that person can help you uncover options you may have. Are you collecting unemployment insurance? What resources are available to you for job searching? At least you no longer have to work from home to take care of Mom.

You deserve a chance to pursue happiness in your own life. This is an especially tough time for you. You can get through it and be stronger for it. You deserve help, and it may be that an objective third party can provide support as you go through it.
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Lots of questions and issues here.

First, do your siblings have legal authority to take any action whatsoever? Does your mother have a POA or DPOA? If so, who's the proxy? That's the person who has authority to take action in disposition of assets and handle other financial and legal issues.

Does your mother have a Will or Trust, and if so (a) are the siblings aware of the asset disposition? (b) Who's the Personal Rep (f/k/a Executor or Executrix) or Trustee?

Second, talk to the social worker at the nursing home about getting your mother on Medicaid, if she's not already on it. If she is, ask the SW to clarify the issue of retaining the house for Medicaid acquisition. Others are more knowledgeable about Medicaid, but it will lien your mother's hosue.

While you're at it, ask if the SW has any suggestions for you. She probably doesn't, but it does seem to me that you could qualify for Medicaid as well. That would at least address your medical needs.

Third, did you and your mother have any caregiving agreements, i.e., a contract for services?

Fourth, what specific legal action have your siblings take that requires a defense? Have they sued you, or are they still in the threatening stage? If you need legal help, it should be specific, but you can start by researching the state bar organization for your area and look for pro bono legal aid services.

Some major law firms do limited pro bono work as well, but I'd ask a state bar or county bar association if they're aware of any. This usually isn't publicized very much outside of the profession.

However, please provide more information on why you need legal representation. Your siblings might just be "blowing smoke" at this stage.

Fifth, which specific legal dox are you trying to interpret? It makes a difference, and could provide a foundation for support for you. Just name the dox.

Sixth, there are attorney experts who opine here periodically. After getting more answers, if you still have legal questions, use the "contact us" link at the bottom of the page and ask for an expert to provide guidance.

Lastly, siblings are not always grateful, and many of the posts here attest to the inheritance rivalries that arise when assets may come into play. Don't expect or rely on them, but absolutely, DOCUMENT everything they say, do or refuse to do, and anything that you might have to use in defense of yourself.
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You need a lawyer. Before Mom can go on Medicaid she will need to go thru her assets. Are you on SSD. If so as a disabled child living in her home, you may be able to stay in it. You will have to pay the taxes, utulities and upkeep probably. The lawyers payment can come out of Moms money. You need to do this to protect yourself.
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If you kept the house on the 6 acres, would you have the resources to pay taxes and upkeep on the house? With your disability, wouldn't it be difficult to maintain such a large piece of property? I don't know how big the home is, but they take a lot of work & money to upkeep.
So your retirement plans were always to live in that home?
As I get older (late 50's am I ) I plan to downsize my home. It's just too big for me to spend my time & energy cleaning & maintaining it & my husband & I work full time to pay for "the barn"( as we refer to our home jokingly), hoping to retire in a few years. Paying taxes on 6 acres may be too costly. 
So where you are staying now is in another home owned by your mother?

Maybe your siblings want to begin to liquidate your mom's assets as the homes & properties are costing too much out of your mom's financial resources. To upkeep those properties could be using up a lot of her assets. It sounds like your brothers are aware of the cost of real estate upkeep and want to begin to liquidate some of her assets as that money is needed to pay for mom's care. In that case, their plan has merit. Who has POA?

You allude that your siblings are wealthy and you say they can afford to pay for your mother's care easily. It is not your sibling's responsibility to pay for that if your mother has assets of her own that can be sold and used to pay for her own care. You really can't say what your siblings finances look like as you are not privy to what their financial responsibilities are.

What were your family dynamics prior to your mother's illness?

Lastly you said your mother never wanted to end up in a nursing home. I feel for you as that's what my mom always said as well. But it was getting to be unsafe for my mother to live at home, & her medical conditions forced our hand. For my brother and I, those 14 months were h*ll and imagining what my mother felt like in the NH made it 1000x worse. But it had to be that way to assure her safety. And my mom lived with my brother, who tried to keep her home as long as possible.

Sometimes situations that you can't predict dictate the decisions you make even if those decisions are heart wrenching (keeping you mom in rehab/LTC). Maybe your brothers are selling her home out of necessity to pay for her care. If she improves and you can take her home, she will need 24/7 care and that IS expensive. Are your brothers anticipating that, which is why they want to sell the house "ASAP"? 

These circumstances can tear families apart. The goal here is what is best for your mother, not them, nor you. It sounds as if you were counting on living in the 6 acre home as your retirement home & you are worried this may not be in the cards.

I wouldn't have all your eggs in one basket. Your mom may need to liquidate all her assets to pay for her care as no one can know when she will pass.

You also can't say with certainty that your brother with the office down the street never visited her as you weren't there 24/7. If this brother is the neurosurgeon he could very well have visited his mom in the middle of the night if he has patients in that hospital.
I hope it hasn't come to the point that you need an attorney every time you speak with your siblings. I still don't think that you getting "thrown out on the street" is eminent, but if I were you I would begin to explore other options independent of your family so you have a Plan B. 

For your own peace of mind I would see an attorney and explain all this to him/her & perhaps retain one to represent you in the event things take a bad turn.

How is mom? Any improvement in her delirium? Do her physicians feel she will never improve and need long term care going forward? I do not know much about managing trusts and estates - the good folks on this forum are the experts on that & will help guide you going forward, and only you know the particulars of your mother's assets and wishes should she pass away.

Keep focused on being your mother's advocate, but don't forget to be your own advocate as well. Get info on subsidized housing & community resources available for you. 

You still have your own life to plan for and in the end there is no one you can really depend on but yourself.
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