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My Mom passed away three years ago after her 2nd bout with breast cancer. Before she passed, her and my Dad made a will. My brother and I were named beneficiaries and were to split everything.


Since then, my Dad who is 83 has had some cognitive decline. My niece who lives near him has been a major influence on him and his bank account. I live on the opposite coast and My brother lives in a different state.. How can I protect my inheritance and ensure that my Mother's final wishes are enforced?

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Garden, actual “joint”, like 1 document for the both of them, isn’t allowed in some states, if I’m not mistaken. I think FL doesn’t allow them. TX does but the vibe I got was that doing it was idiocy. Especially for if there was a surviving spouse as the terms in the joint would be Irrevocable. Horrors!
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FloridaDD Jun 5, 2020
It can make sense for second marriages, where first to die wants to protect his/her kids without a trust
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How s niece a mAjor influence on dad's bank account? do you know what his funds are being spent on?

Hi s funds are solely for his care, first. If anything is left that will be inheritance if dad has not changed his will.
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The finances that your father has now are for his care. Any 'protection' being done should be for his health, his benefit, his own use. imo.

See to it that he is cared for.
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There are in fact "joint wills."

This is on a website with legal contributors, and which has been providing support and information on legal issues since way back when in the late 1990s.

Joint wills, including explanations, use, and drawbacks:

https://estate.findlaw.com/wills/joint-wills.html

Findlaw background and goal: https://www.findlaw.com/company.html

I learned about it when I was working, in a law firm, and found its resources very valuable.

This site affirms the existence of joint wills, although not recommended for reasons stated. However, unless there's been a statutory change which hasn't been added to this typically current legal site, joint wills apparently still exist.
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MountainMoose May 31, 2020
Wow, thank you for posting these links, GardenArtist. I have NEVER heard of these.
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What’s in a will for assets changes over time.
Folks sell a home, sell land, buy a boat, spend savings, make bad investments .... their assets back in 1997 when they did a will becomes totally different when they die in 2020. Inheritance is NOT guaranteed.
So, What is your primary concern, your “inheritance”? or his needs?

As Mountain Moose said, there is no “joint” wills. If it’s that your folks were like most married couples where their wills have it so that all assets owned by the deceased pass over to the surviving spouse, then surviving spouse controls & owns the assets now. If this is what your parents wills are like, then whatever your dad chooses to do or has done with assets since your mom died 3 years ago is totally his call. If he is cognitive and competent, he can decide what to do with his assets.

If your mom wanted you to inherit something specifically she could have done that in her will and you took possession of it as a part of the distribution of her estate. If this type of detail wasn’t in her will, and your dad ends up spending all his savings and sells his home to use to pay for his stay in an AL or a NH, or decides to pay his nearby niece for caregiving and doing personal services for him, or gives your moms China collection to Goodwill, he can do all these things.

There could be zero $ and stuff left when he finally dies. Getting old and paying for facilities & care in the US is staggering expensive. There are folks on this site whose parent spent 15-20k a month for a facility. In home health care runs $15-30 hr with most requiring 3 days a week with 5 hr minimum. If your cousin is doing stuff for your dad on a regular basis, she - imho - is a godsend for him, especially in this time of Covid concerns. If she was there during the last year or two of your moms cancer, that niece has been invaluable for your parents.

Could niece be swindling your dad? Yeah could happen. But 3 years is a pretty good period of time that he has been able to do & spend $ on. Unless you can have definite solid proof that she is taking advantage of a vulnerable elder, and you are willing to go and live with him this summer to establish a new living and caregiving situation and do fresh legal, I’d really really suggest you tread very carefully in all this.

Again, inheritances are not guaranteed. Unless your dad has a great deal of $, if he lives long enough he will likely run out of $ and he will end up applying for LTC Medicaid to pay for his facility. That is the harsh reality of aging in America.
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Disclaimer: I'm no lawyer.

There are no joint wills. A will is for one person to make. Each may have made a will that mirrors the other's, such as leaving all their belongings to the survivor. If that was the case, then all belongings transfer to the beneficiary, your father. Then they're all his to decide what to do with them in his will and he can change his choices.

On a different note, if your father is showing signs of dementia and you feel your niece is taking advantage of that by getting your father to give her money, I agree with Daughterof1930 for you to make a visit to your father. Is he having mental difficulties? Can you go with him to his doctor to find out what's wrong? Is your niece an active caregiver to him? Is his money going to expenses for his care, including paying your niece?

TO PROTECT HIM AND HIS FUNDS TO PAY FOR HIS CARE, ask him if he'd like to discuss his finances.

If he is sinking into dementia, check your state's laws about vulnerable people. Many states have enacted laws protecting them from predatory people. For example, my niece did exactly that to my mother. My sister discovered that Niece knew Mom couldn't remember that Niece took Mom to her bank and withdrew several hundred dollars just that morning, so Niece did it again that afternoon. In weeks, Mom lost thousands to Niece. I got Mom's financial (and medical) POA and I took over. Mom's state had a law about vulnerable people. From my mouth to Niece's ears I told her Mom was in a protected class by law, and if she ever took any money from Mom I'd call the police and press charges.
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Your mother's final wishes went to you dad to do anything he wants with anything he has. So, you have a neice willing to take on the thankless job of caregiver and you are worried about your inheritance? How is she influencing his money? Who has POA? Have you visited to see what is really going on verses what you think might be going on? You and your brother chose to live far away from your Dad so someone needs to step in. Thankfully someone has. If you're so worried about the money, perhaps move your dad in with you? He has a right to give his money and home to anyone he chooses. He's an adult and perhaps he's paying her for all the things she does for him. That's okay to because if she wasn't in the picture he'd probably be paying much more. There are different stages of dementia so depending upon which stage he's in, determines if he's competent enough to make proper decisions. A great big thank you is in order for your niece who is sacrificing to care for her loved one. What are you doing to help your dad besides being afraid someone is after his money?
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worriedinCali May 31, 2020
Why are you assuming the niece is dads caregiver? The OP says no such thing. Wow.
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Do you have reason to believe that the Will has been changed? Is the niece being a help to your father or just a financial drain? Have you visited in person to see what his situation is like? Sorry to ask more questions, but it’s helpful in knowing how to advise
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I am assuming, since your mother is dead, that her final wish was that your father get the money? If that is the case he has it now. He has a niece who lives near him? Does she HELP him? Because were it me, that would be the relative I would be leaving most of my own estate to. Neither of my children live where I am. I am 78. Increasingly, as time goes on, and most naturally, I will need assistance. I have no nieces, nephews, and etc living near me. At a point I will move to Assisted Living, and that of course will eat up a whole lot of funds. So I think you should look at it from the standpoint of your Dad. If he is changing his will now in favor of a niece, it need not be because of undue influence. It may be because her help is what is allowing him to live out his life in his own home as long as he can. Once he cannot live in his own home, his funds will disappear quickly. He will be on medicaid in all likelihood by the time he requires memory care. That can be as much as 20,000 a month. What home there is will be eventually recovered by medicaid for care and funds given. So it is time to stop worry about your "inheritance" now, and time to start worrying about what support you may lend, thought you are far removed from where he lives.
All that said, if your father leaves a very large estate to the niece, you can, if the will was changed when your father had a diagnosis (written) of dementia, claim that any will change was wrong. You can go to court to fight it. It is my opinion, if the niece gave a lot of support and care to Dad before his death, you will not win, and will be left with court costs; but there is that option and that choice.
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