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FIL passed away last year and the children decided it’s unsafe for her to continue to live alone in the rural area and moved her to an independent living place, close to one of her daughters. We were rushed to move her, the idea is that we’ll deal with the house later.


MIL wants to go back to the house this summer, to remodel it by herself so she can sell it by herself because she’s a big fan of those house flipping shows on HGTV. Of course it’s all nonsense. She does not have the mental capacity, she can barely operate a microwave and thinks bank statements are bills she owes.


We agree she should sell the house, it’s been unoccupied and deteriorating in the last 6 months. She’ll need the money to pay for more care as the disease progresses. She says she wants to sell but refuses to give any of the children POA for real estate to handle selling the house.


Any suggestions? None of the children wants to be her guardian btw. She does not have good relationships with her children, the children feel somewhat obligated to help her but have all set boundaries. If she grants the POA, the children will help getting the house ready, and sell it. But they don’t want to become her guardian.

Imho, certainly one of mom's adult children has to take on the POA role. No one loves it in this case, but perhaps there is no other choice. I cannot see "mom going to back to the house this summer to remodel it by herself." Wow. That simply is a confabulation.
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If your husband is the financial POA, that should cover selling the house. Reread the POA and see if it exempts really estate, or double check with the attorney who drew it up. Mine covered real estate and we sold the house with out their signatures. I just had to provide the original POA and not a copy and sign the documents as Attorney In Fact.
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An option to consider: explain to MIL all the problems of the empty house, suggest that she moves back in but must have it ready for sale by the end of summer – say end of August or mid-September. She must organise it all. You move her back, probably with some home care to keep her safe, but make the carer do as little as possible. The idea is to let MIL see as quickly as you can that she simply cannot do what she has wanted to do. Making day-to-day living difficult is part of that.

Come DDay, she goes back to IL and signs the POA, which you have ready. Of course with luck she may give up earlier than the original DDay, which would be even better. Then if she won’t sign immediately (while she is still feeling overwhelmed with how difficult things are), the family no longer provides support and you say that one of you will seek guardianship to force the sale. Yes, you are quite nasty if that’s what it takes. Her failure to cope during her stay at home plus her failure to go through with the POA as the alternative, are important issues for the guardianship application.

To make all this work, the basis has to be agreement with all the family. I strongly suggest that you have a meeting to agree it, document the agreement and get it signed by everyone involved. You also all put in some money stated in the written agreement (‘consideration’ in legal language), as kitty to help get things started eg re home care. This makes it a binding contract between you all. However, Ludmila, if you are only DIL/ SIL I would try to get one of the actual children to be the front runner if it’s at all possible. It just sits better with a lot of people, probably including the Guardianship court.

It’s really hard. Good luck. When you have a plan, it may be worthwhile to get legal advice eg to write up the agreement and the POA document. That will also be useful if you do have to proceed to guardianship. Best wishes, Margaret
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You first have to determine that she is mentally incompetent before obtaining guardianship. In addition, the process of obtaining guardianship for an elder can be very costly. Has she been evaluated by a neurologist to determine her cognitive status? It looks like your family was very successful in convincing her to move from her home. Many times that is very difficult to accomplish with an elderly person whose lived at a home for many years but, you did accomplish that task. Your family members might have a discussion about the different ways to persuade her to proceed with the property sale. Even if that means allowing her to think she's contributing to the remodeling. I do believe that it sometimes takes a village to deal with the really headstrong elders in the family. I'm not opposed to enlisting the help of grandchildren if needed. Best wishes!
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No more home remodeling shows for MIL. Maybe it's as simple as that. Find her a new favorite show, talk it up, make popcorn or ice cream sundaes and sit down and watch the show with her.

Also: Foremost, subsidiary of Farmers, does vacant / unoccupied home insurance. How do you think people insure their homes during the winter when they move to their condo in a warmer part of the country for half a year?
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Ludmila, oh my on her the telling the Realtor the lot was way way bigger & Zillow was wrong..... but a really good experienced Realtor has dealt with situations way worse than this. Like way worse!

if you still remember that Realtors name, I’d suggest that you contact them again. Go over briefly that previous meeting and be real direct & upfront that Mils house needs to be sold as she’s actually now moved to IL and would the Realtor like to discuss with you what’s realistically needed to have it “market ready” both for legal needed and the physical condition of the property and have them be the listing agent. Mention that family is a “motivated seller” now. Firstly the Realtor will be flattered and just might want to be the listing agent but if not they can refer you to another agent who might be a better fit. AND initial Realtor - if it’s a referral - gets a bit of the 3% sellers commission. So they will keep their hand in on showing it if they have a potential buyer.

Again please clearly find out what legal will need in order to actually sell the house and do the signatures at the Act if Sale. If your state requires the owner - aka MIL - to physically be there and happily sign off on documents and answer a couple of notary questions and you pretty well know that is not at all possible, then your going to need to look at getting guardianship done.

You cannot have her at the Act of Sale refuse to sign. This can morph into big problems.You do not things to ever go there.
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Do you know a realtor in her area? Can you arrange to have them meet siblings and mom at the house and have the realtor go over what might be done before selling or what can be left. Maybe meet with the realtor first and review so that when they meet with mom there are no surprises for you. IF work needs to be done beyond what you & the family have time for ask the realtor for suggested trades people. Cost for repairs should come out of Mom’s funds not yours.
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Ludmila Jun 23, 2020
pre pandemic we and MIL met with a realtor. Big mistake. The meeting went poorly. It made her so angry. She expected way more money for her house, e.g. 30% more than Zillow estimate. And the realtor wouldn’t work with that number.
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TNtechie raises a good point about vacant house insurance. It's very costly, and excludes water damage insurance. It also excludes insurance for firearms unless they're secured in a gun safe, although I don't think this would be an issue in the OP's case.
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Frances73 Jun 24, 2020
Good point, Imhad to pay that insurance for Mom's empty house, and of course we had a water break that wasn’t found for 5 days.
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Also Ludmila, those in-laws of yours, are they expecting $ to them from MILs property sale?

Unless that place will sell for over $ 350k, there more than likely will not be any excess $$, as she will go likely thru 350k for care. She cannot gift IF there is any possibility of needing Medicaid in the next 5 years (Medicaid look back period).

Right now she’s - I’m guessing - totally ok on paying for her IL with just her SS $ and any other retirements & savings.
But NH can run 5k - 15k a month. some places 18-20. MC in many places run somewhat less than a NH. Whatever the case, it’s frightfully expensive. Average stay in a NH is 2.5 years, roughly $ 300k. Mil will need every penny.

If house is for sure over 450-500k, her $$$$ might outlive her. If y’all are wanting to be reimbursed for stuff you & hubs have paid for to datem I’d try to do a detailed list of all that ahead of sale so his siblings are clearly understanding that this $ goes to repay hubs. And if any of the subs also have fronted $. Personally I would not spend the $ but have it set aside in its own account so should Medicaid be applied for within the 5 yr lookback and gifting / transfer penalty comes up, you can use the $ to clear the transfer penalty.

whatever the case, I’d have an elder law attorney go over her legal and update as needed before the sale. Good Luck.
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Ludmila Jun 22, 2020
The house is worth less than 350K for sure. The children are not expecting $ from the house sale because we know she’ll need more care in maybe a year or two.

She is currently in IL but from what I read about AD she’ll need AL/MC in a year or two.

The plan is, after the house sale we’ll know how much money there is, then we will starting looking for a AL/MC that can work with her $.
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My father with vascular dementia also had lifelong paranoid personality disorder so he could not give control over to anyone with a POA. He also wanted to remain in his home even after he needed 24/7 supervision and care following a heart attack. We had division among the family (my mother and 3 children) over placing Dad in MC or keeping him at home to "preserve an inheritance" and/or to "respect his wishes". I ended up being named his guardian and selling his house over his objections but with my mother's blessing. In pre-CV days, it took just over 2 months to gain permanent guardianship but I had been considering the move for several years and had everything ready paperwork wise before I even filed. The judge granted an emergency temporary guardianship so I could remove my father's working firearms from his residence and prevent my brother from providing replacements.

If your mother has progressed to a particular phase of her dementia, there may be no reasoning with her and you or one of your siblings may be forced to petition for guardianship in order to sale the house.

When you get to the point of selling the house, I suggest you restrict yourself to "lipstick" repairs. Empty and clean the house, apply a neutral coat of paint throughout, perhaps refinish wood floors and replace bath and kitchen fixtures; some realtors in our area will oversee such "prepare for sale" repairs for an additional fee. Make repairs as needed so the house is livable at the time of sale, but leave major remodel projects to the new owners unless its some feature that would make the sale difficult. For example, my parents house had the laundry room in the basement and limited pantry space in the kitchen or closet space in the kitchen entry so I added a mud room just off the kitchen (with pantry and coat closet space) and moved the laundry to the main level. This was a relatively cheap addition and definitely added to the sale-ability of the house and well as its value.

Insurance and vandalism risks may be points your mother is still likely to consider as reasons for a sale. Unoccupied houses are nearly impossible to insure, houses under remodel are more likely to burn or suffer major damages, and empty or houses under remodel are more likely to be vandalized. Wouldn't it be better to store the keepsakes and sale the house now than lose the keepsakes and the home value if it was set on fire?

Good luck dealing with your mother.
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Frances73 Jun 24, 2020
That is what we did, cleaned everything out of the house but the curtains. Scrubbed the floors and appliances, had the basement walls and floor painted. The house sold in 24 hours.
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I’m going to approach this from a different angle.... there’s 3? 4 kids?
So is there 1 mom/mil would accept information & decisions from?
is it your spouse? or is it the daughter closest to the AL?

imho there must be 1 that is “shepherding” mom & enforcing decisions, AND others need to -without interference- let that person lead.
Can your in-laws family & their spouses actually do this?? like keep in their lanes for the next several Months or years??
You married into this, will they do this?
To me, that’s the first thing to determine. Cause it will do absolutely no good to have Big Sissy spend time, emotion & $, if there’s going to be backbiting & mendacity from an errant son-in-law or greedy grandkid. Mil soundS very “my word is law” type & so far nobody has been able to stand up to her & have it stick. Accurate??

If answer is “No”, unless you & your spouse want beyond frustration, I’d step back and either let MIL become a “ward of the state” or find a CELA level of elder law attorney firm that does guardianships where it’s an atty of the firm who becomes the guardian & family gets to provide input if it’s this route. That house can be used for collateral for this.

if its “yes”, I’d get a memo of understanding as to who’s dPOA that the kids sign. That sibling speaks with 3- 4 Realtors to see what legally the paperwork must be to take house to an Act of Sale and get it sold. My experience is that what’s your states Real Estate laws are is going to be determined what’s needed. If its DPOA with “all financials” ability is fine what’s needed, that going to be lots easier to get that house sold than a state that needs MIL to actually in person sign with notary present. If MIL will balk at signing & refuse, it will kill the deal. If this happens, it dominos to other issues.....

also please please realize that any $ spent on the house - if paid for by the kids - cannot easily be reinbursement should MIL need to apply for Medicaid. Medicaid will look at this as “gifting”. And once Medicaid applied for then basically all income mil has must become her copay to NH. Medicaid rules & copay requirements seem to come as beyond a total surprise to family.

If there’s looking like lots of outlay needed to sell property, it may end up to be simpler to go to a property management company that can bill mil & place a workmans lien on the property so that when it goes to the Act of Sale that workmen’s lien must be paid from the proceeds in order for sale to go thru. The management co will take care of getting the house “market ready”, doing whatever repairs needed, maybe even paying utilities. They can file a lien as House is securitized collateral. There’s been a couple on AC who have taken this route.

Imho selling “As Is” is a theory, should hubs family say this.... there’s always costs... like taxes$ & in$urance paid, yard cut, Utilitie$. So who’s going to pay all this, & be ok IF not reimbursed, should Medicaid get filed in mil future?

Also Medicaid will fully expect it to be sold at FMV which tends to be tax assessor value. If value is whack, may need to legally show why less. Not Realtor comps. I’m with NYDiL to get an inspection done. For my moms place I had inspection done 1st and that given to appraiser to use. Value Significantly less and legal as they both place a seal on documents.

so what’s the family like?
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Ludmila Jun 22, 2020
I think all the siblings want the same thing, i.e., to sell the house before it goes into despair so MIL will have more $ for her care.

everyone has been telling MIL “no you can’t do this.. ...”. And that hasn’t worked. We will all have to communicate better I guess. we are new to this and are still learning how to speak AD.

Hopefully we can find a realtor/broker that can get the house ready and the work done will be paid from the sale of the house ( a lien ). Finding someone trustworthy so we won’t get ripped off is another challenge for us.
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"...MIL wants to go back to the house this summer..." All of her children must agree that no one is going to enable her to get to the house or help remodel the house.

Whichever of her children she respects most must take the lead in speaking for everyone that the longer she waits the more that house will decay and the lower will be her proceeds from a sale. "Mom, it's prudent to give one of us POA specifically for the sale of the house otherwise we cannot help you with the sale."

Consider getting MIL to hire and pay for a home inspector. It is worth the $300 or so to give you all a solid picture of what, if anything, is actually wrong with the house. And you can lower the price accordingly. This is another good reason for her to give one of you POA for the house sale.

Too many people make the mistake of making cosmetic repairs. If the house has good bones, pricing it as an as-is-fixer upper will help it to sell quickly. "Mom, the house should have been on the market already. Families are more inclined to move before the fall or first cold snap."

Explain to MIL: "Mom, houses are selling quickly because of the pandemic, and your house is where people are looking to move."

Explain to MIL: "The only thing that needs to be done is mowing the lawn. Do you want to mow the lawn every single week until the house sells?" She probably will not want to do that. Let her know that good realtors will have such services at their fingertips for extra charge of course, but it is worth not having that headache.

Explain to MIL: "Mom, let's focus on getting your house sold and getting you some plants and flowers for you to have now."

And everyone has to tell the sibling who says “oh I’m so worried” to stop it because it's unhelpful and right now everyone has to pull in the same direction and if that sibling cannot pull, that sibling needs to find some other way to help.

These are hard conversations. Everyone must agree. Everyone must be willing to be a broken record. It's tough.
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Ludmila Jun 23, 2020
Thank you! “Everyone must be willing to be a broken record” is what the family needs to be.
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Ludmilla, I ran out of space, but my point was that the current situation isn't working; why not try something else, something that incorporates moving forward w/o the issue of her delegating authority? Frankly, if I were in her situation, I wouldn't either.

Contracting and house resolution is complicated; even if I were facing dementia, I'd still want to have the benefit of life experience that younger folks don't have.

But trying to get legal authority isn't working, so perhaps another method is subject for consideration, which is to work with her on her level and make her feel good about herself while resolving a critical issue.

I've read too many posts about adult children who want to take over and get something accomplished, completing ignoring the emotional damage to the parent. I've been through that, and never found it worth going through again. It's much better to work toward a conciliatory solution.

Another thought on contractors: I'm very partial to owner owned and operated as well as Veteran owned companies; the owners and generally the staff bring an attitude toward working that I don't see in many other contracting companies.
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Ludmila Jun 22, 2020
I agree.

My husband is under a lot of pressure from family members to “just go find a realtor and have it listed on the market and when it’s time to sign, make her sign”. I don’t think it’s possible to force it on her that way. she might flip out and who knows what she’ll do?
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Something to remember is that repairing, remodeling or fixing up a house is a large project for anyone, of any age. Beyond preparing a work scope, there's the often frustrating issue of finding qualified contractors. Sometimes it's an issue of just finding a contractor who's willing and interested in the job.

For an older person, or even someone younger, there are a lot of decisions to be made. So, simplify them, down to one at a time. And let her think she's a "flipper", just provide more of the answers and suggestions to avoid her slipping into a position that's overwhelming.

I completely understand her position, and really think that a lot of people feel the same way but are overwhelmed with the decision making. The tv flipper programs contractors take charge, and that's an important factor; the house owner has limited decisions to make, another important factor. And, equally important, contractors have connections with other contractors that a homeowner does not. That can stall a process indefinitely.

Last year I had to repair damage to my garage, which I couldn't have handled myself for a variety of reasons, safety being one. I contacted about a dozen contractors, ranging from handymen to siding and gutter contractors. Only a few were polite and said they couldn't handle the work for another 4 (!) months.

Some made appointments which they never kept. Some gave estimates but never returned calls when I called to schedule.

Eventually I lucked out and got a good contractor, but even then, some of the lesser project work didn't get done.

Another major issue was far more complicated; I spend hours trying to find a contractor for a complex project, got some good suggestions, but found no one who was interested, in part b/c that project typically would involve an insurance claim, and contractors could make more and overcharge an insurance company more easily than an individual.

Prepare your own work scope, by category, steps, and goals. Give MIL a choice of just 2 issues, to decomplicate the issues for her decision. Start with the easiest ones. And make one choice much easier, i.e., just for example purposes, taking Tothill's situation:

1. Would she like to have the deck repaired or not? Simple question; make her feel good when she makes a decision.

2. Assuming yes, would she like to have the railings replaced or not? Another simple question, and better if the railings are good because she can say no. Another good feeling about making a decision.

I think you get the idea: simplify it so she has no complicated choices, only ones that are easy and can make her feel good. If you get to the point of selecting a contractor, contact some and narrow it down to a few. Then discuss with her, and if you think she'll heed your advice, recommend the best choice. If you think she'd be contentious, recommend the worse choice so she'll choose the other contractor.

In this environment, you'll be lucky if you get a half a dozen or so contractors who are interested.

I learned the hard way that was the best option for addressing cleanouts. One company I hired sent two top notch, sensitive and competent women, who sorted then presented selections to my father for decision: either throw away now, or save for later decision (gives the parent an option but plants a thought of discarding). Discarding now creates a sense of progress; deferring till later creates the sense of making an important decision, both win-win steps.

Take a break and chat, or have an ice cream treat (diet permitting) and encourage the workers to become more acquainted with her.

I realize this sounds simplistic; perhaps it's easier described than implemented. But it's a way she can participate and feel good about herself.

It may take longer, but it seems as though progress is currently difficult, and friction is developing, so what's the best option?
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Ludmila Jun 22, 2020
none of the family members live in the area where her old house is located. The family ( i.e. all the children, plus MIL’s own siblings and extended families) agree it is for the best to just get it on the market quickly and may have to sell it as is. We hope to find a realtor to do this, somebody with their own team to do quick cosmetic repairs ( paid out of The proceeds from selling the house ).

we are working towards convincing her to grant real estate POA to one of the children. My husband already has the POA with her banks to handle all the bills. But real estate is a different one and she insists on “working on the house” herself.

BTW the remodeling/deck repair posting is from “tohill”. Not from me (the OP ).
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Good luck.

I have discovered with my Dad, that although my brother has POA and it has been sprung, neither of them are willing to commit to getting much needed work done on the property. We have a complicated situation with a testamentary trust set up in my grandmother's will in 1982.

So now, I am paying out of pocket and hiring people to do necessary work. My brother does not want to pay as he feels he can do the work himself, but he takes years to get to it. It took him over 2 years to replace a deck. He would not hire the work out and the deck was unsafe. My son and I pulled the old one off the rental so he had to step up and do it. Of course he has not finished the job. Dad is overwhelmed by even thinking about what needs doing and would patch a problem instead of repairing it.

Dad does not have dementia.

I called Dad yesterday and told him about a major plumbing repair I have put in motion. He said he was happy he was not dealing with it. What about paying for it?
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Ludmila Jun 22, 2020
We’ve been paying out of our pocket for years to help my in laws. As long as it’s something we can afford and it’s about their health and safety. If money is the only issue it’d be so easy. But money is almost never the only issue. Even before her dementia. It’s hard to come to agreement what needs to be done, who should do it, who’s contributing in what way. One of the siblings did nothing but kept saying stuff like “oh I’m so worried” as if worrying is contributing. Just pointing out obvious problems but not providing solutions ( money or work ) really does not count IMHO.

it seems your brother is at least putting in some work, though not up to your speed or standard. It’s a starting point to have a discussion, probably better than some other families.
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If no one wants to be appointed as her Guardian the court will appoint one. There are Court Appointed Guardians and they will take over.
the process does not take that long.
It can be time consuming but if the court Appoints one then they will do all that needs to be done. Keep in mind though the Court Appointed Guardian will have control of all your mothers assets. The cost of Guardianship will be paid from those assets as well as court costs. This will eventually leave less for family if she does have any remaining assets when she dies.
Best if you talk to a lawyer that is well versed in Eldercare Law. They will provide the information that is needed. You will have to have a doctor declare that she is not mentally competent.
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Let her sign the paperwork for the sale. As long as she is able to understand in the moment what she is signing it is fine.

If all her children are with the decision can't you all help get it ready? Let her be involved with the process and she will probably burn out quickly and let the professionals handle it.

She lost everything when her husband died, she is trying to take back some control of her life. Guide the control instead of removing it.
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Ludmila Jun 22, 2020
We want to help getting it ready, we tried. we took her back to the house a few times and realized she’s lost her executive function but still wanted to be in charge, wanted to remodel, do the landscape herself, would not allow us to hire people to do it quickly. All children have their own lives elsewhere, no one can go live with her to “remodel” for years ( which has been ongoing like Winchester mystery house ).

it is definitely a control issue. She may have lost her wisdom or intelligence but her controlling personality and delusion or grandeur is still intact. She does not believe she’s impaired especially when it comes to the house. Sigh.
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Many of our elderly loved loves have not so good days and good days.  We got my mom to sign POA on a good day.  Other caveat, is all the siblings are together on process, no one will sue the other.  If you are not on the same page, risk is that one will contest the POA
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I agree with Cali. POA often can be accomplished even with "some" impairment in thinking" (it is only necessary that the lawyer examine her and she understands what she is doing in conferring POA; sounds like she would not do that). However, as Cali says, you still are not in charge; you are sworn to do just as she directs you to do; you are helping her.
Guardianship comes in when she cannot make her own decision. I am curious why you would not want this, as it is not a whole lot different than POA, and often easier in these cases. It DOES entail careful record keeping. And you DO do it all.
The home, of course will become more and more a problem. It will not only deteriorate badly with no one living in it, but insurance companies will not like that it is empty and they may refuse to insure.
At some point this will have to be faced. Even the assisted living will insist on it. And if no one wants to do this a fiduciary may be assigned through the courts. At that point, however, the family will have almost nothing to say about her care, even where she is. Fiduciaries often decide on less good living places in order that money "lasts longer" and that can even be out of your area. Wishing you good luck.
My advice at this point would be that the family chip in for an hour of time with an Elder Law Attorney. Have what info you can re her assets. Tell them you need advice on a way forward for the family. STICK TOGETHER. It is crucial in these times.
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Ludmila Jun 22, 2020
Just curious, do you have any experience getting guardianship? How long did it take, any advice?

We heard it’s a lengthy painful process and could take a year. Courts are very slow these days because of the pandemic.
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She has to be mentally competent to assign a POA. And even if she did assign a POA, you can’t just take control and do what you want. It doesn’t sound like she’s mentally competent so someone will have the pursue guardianship.
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