I put my name on the title but my siblings plan on suing for the house. Will they win? - AgingCare.com

I put my name on the title but my siblings plan on suing for the house. Will they win?

Follow
Share

I am sole caregiver for my mom for five years. Mom requires 24/7 care. She has alzheimer's, heart disease and emphysema. She has been bedridden for over a year now. I sold my house at a loss to move in and take care of her five years ago. I am broke and mom is almost out of money. I do have POA but my brother is the executor of the will which states that everything gets split evenly between siblings. None of my five siblings have helped. I am now 60 years old with no job and nowhere to. I can't afford a lawyer but my executor brother certainly can. Can they just throw me out on the streets and sell the house?

This question has been closed for answers. Ask a New Question.
15

Answers

Show:
Hi Franciss:

I'm not sure of the legalities, but I am sure that caring for an elderly parent with dementia is a fairly thankless job and that if there are any dysfunctional family dynamics ( and what family hasn't got any?) then they are probably going to be magnified by the illness and most people's misunderstanding/ignorance of what caregiving actually entails. Probably most of the family that is not directly involved in the caregiving has no idea of what you are actually doing and the stress and heartache it is causing you. Comments like living rent-free are an obvious sign of ignorance and it's too bad you couldn't get your siblings to actually experience the day to day costs by taking their turn. Probably they are also "too busy" ie too selfish to read a few books on dementia and caregiving, but you could try recommending some to them.

I also gave up my home (an apartment) and a job teaching to move in to care for my mom with Parkinson's disease and dementia and quickly blew through my savings to do this. I could no longer work as my mom had severe risk of falls (actually falling a lot) and was becoming unable to care for herself because of muscle rigidity and weakness. She could no longer live alone and we could not afford to hire someone to move in. My other two siblings live at a distance and also had become estranged from my mom because of her very difficult personality long before her illness became obvious.

Years ago my mom left me the house in her will, when she was still competent, because as the only unmarried one I didn't have a permanent home and my sisters agreed. The problem came when because of her dementia she started to become intermittently paranoid and hostile and started to threaten to not leave me the house every time she got angry over some small thing or another. Since she has lost her sense of judgement and perspective, that might be because I wasn't following yet another request fast enough, refused to get kitty litter for the imaginary cats, or because I was trying to get her to buy a needed item like a wheel chair (for two years now) that she insists she doesn't have the money for ( but does). This causes a great deal of anxiety as I had to give up my job, friends, life and everything to move to a different town to care for her for the past 4.5 years.

I agree with the others who told you to protect yourself and try to estimate and write down, gathering as many receipts as possible, the value of your work for your mom. If nothing else it will help you to clear on what you have done in case it comes to court. I am really appalled that due to some abuses of elders in the past it has come to the point where family caregivers are untrusted by other family, unsupported by doctors, and left to try to do their work in an atmosphere of fear and anxiety. There needs to be some recognition of the worth of caregiving and its costs, financial and otherwise, so that those who step up can be protected from other predatory family members whose only interest in their parent is to get money they don't deserve.
Helpful Answer (3)
Report

It is so sad, that you have to worry not only about your mother and upkeeping a old house. Plus worry about the others. I am also constantly looking over my shoulder. I don't have a answer for it all except an elder law attorney. One that can clarify. I have all these things in place. Yet, i still feel the need for clarification. My lawyer only cared about the money and so i feel the need to hire a different attorney who specializes in elder law. Just to clarify all my ducks are in a row. Because if they "the crooks" can find a loophole. I will be sued too. I say bring it on if you must. Because being bullied is unnacceptable to me. I live by the rule if you dont do the work, you have no say in the care or anything else. Stand your ground. Put on a poker face if you have too. But get some more legal advice. You deserve to live your days not looking over your shoulder. Your doing the noble thing. You stepped up to the plate. May you be rewarded for your efforts somehow.
Helpful Answer (0)
Report

Franciss, your answers are very helpful; thanks for taking that time.

Sorry, but I have a few more questions:

1. Was the deed from your mother, to herself with a life estate and you having the remainder interest?

2 Was there some reason why the successor attorney-in-fact brother signed the deed instead of the individual named as primary attorney-in-fact, or why your mother didn't sign herself?

I will confess to limited knowledge of life estates and remainder interests, so these questions are based on warranty and quit claim deed protocols.

I'm wondering if there was some friction among the siblings at that time and they disagreed with the transfer.

3. Your original post states that none of the 5 siblings have helped, yet your explanatory post states that one sister has helped on some weekends. What's her position on the suit? Perhaps she could support you, unless she too feels a suit is justified. But if she did help, it does contradict the statement in your original post. That's an observation, not necessarily a criticism.

4. I've read the posts a few times but am a bit confused why the siblings want to sue. Do they want 5th interests in the house? Do they want to sell it?

CM asked when the will was signed in relation to the deed. I think that's a really critical fact as well as whether the house was specifically identified in the will.

If the deed was signed after the will, and the will specifically includes the house, the siblings could argue that it wasn't consistent with the will's provision and circumvents your mother's original intention, even if it was your mother's intention. However, assuming your mother wasn't suffering from dementia, it presumably WAS her decision to convey title.

If the will was executed after the deed, and does include the house, it might seem like a contradiction to the siblings.

I honestly must say though that I wonder what else the siblings are objecting to, particularly if one thinks that "free" room and board constitutes some type of reimbursement.

One thing I would do is begin itemizing all the care and free labor for repairs, upkeep, etc. that you've provided. As a contractor, you know how to do this, including adding profit and costs. I would also be prepared to present it if suit is filed, but there's another precaution I would take.

Contact the NJ bar association and find out if there are any pro bono (free) legal clinics or groups near you, and explain the situation to them. Bring a copy of the Will and the recorded copy of the Deed. My guess is that they won't be able to give you very specific information because from what I know now this seems like an issue for a real property attorney with assistance from an estate planning attorney.

Whether your siblings will prevail would depend on a number of factors, including the judge to whom the case is assigned, what their cause of action is and how well they can present it, the aggressiveness and skill of their attorney, and the same qualifications for yours.

It's unfortunate that you might be put in this position and having to expend funds which you don't have, but I wouldn't gamble on presenting the case myself and really would find qualified legal counsel.

On the other hand, the judge may see this as a power play and money grab, or family dynamics gone wrong and dismiss the case. There are just too many variables.

You might also consider tallying your out-of-pocket costs for the caregiving aspects.

If you wanted to fight fire with fire, send a bill to the siblings for your costs, advise them that you'll be returning to work on a given date, and emphatically state that they must take over the care of your mother before or on that date. It might just give you some breathing room.

I'm wondering also if your mother has significant assets - why else would they want the house other than some kind of retaliation?
Helpful Answer (2)
Report

Francis big hugs to you. Big big hugs. That kind of smart alec comment from siblings makes me long to reach out and poke them in the eye.

Back to the money question: did your mother make her last, valid will before or after she, in what sounds like a proper process, transferred the house title to you? Does the will mention the house specifically, or does it refer to her estate overall being divided equally?

Either way, provided the transfer was done tidily and above board (sounds like it to me, an interested amateur), the house is now not your mother's property and she cannot therefore will it to anyone. There may be some clarifications to be made if an oversight led to the will blathering on about the house without taking into account that she doesn't own it any more, but you should be okay. Anyone know any different?
Helpful Answer (0)
Report

Franciss - Thanks for the clarifications. I am wondering if you have any support among your siblings and if you can prevail upon the supportive sibling to plead your case to the other siblings. They obviously are aware of all you are doing to help your mother and maintain her home. Maybe the point needs to be driven home to them however. Would your sister who comes to help take your side? She undoubtedly knows best the toll that this has taken upon you.

It seems to me that if your mother is already in hospice, there may not be a point in applying for Medicaid. Besides, that wouldn't solve the problem of the house. Wish I could be more helpful. Wishing you the best.
Helpful Answer (0)
Report

I forgot to mention, when I do ask for help from any of my brothers their answer always includes the fact that I am getting a free place to stay. I guess I supposed to be grateful to them because they are allowing me to live in HELL free of charge.
Helpful Answer (1)
Report

Thanks to all of you for responding. The first respondent asked some important questions that I will answer, in order as best I can.
1st. I hired an elder lawyer who prepared the deed transferring house to my mom
as a life estate and to me as to the remainder interest.
2nd + 3rd. One of my brothers signed the deed. he is listed as the successor
attorney-in-fact on the Durable POA.
4th. The deed was recorded in september 2013.
5th. My brother who signed the deed told my other siblings. I also told all of them
that it was the best thing to do long before it was done.
6th. On the deed, Mother has life estate with me as to the remainder interest.

My mother was a registered nurse who worked in hospitals and nursing homes. Long before she was sick and since she has asked all of us on numerous occasions to never place her in a nursing home.
I am a single male. My three brothers and two sisters are all married. One sister lives 5 states away but she has given the most help. Every few months she drives up and stays for a weekend and helps take care of mom and the house.
That is the only break I get. Mom has been on hospice for almost two years, but all that gives me is an aid for about 1 hour to clean and change her each morning. I used to do that myself until my mother started fighting with me to the point of hurting herself every time I tried to undress her. She may not know who I am or thinks she is being raped. I had to hire aids to come at night to do this task. In order to save money I hired experienced aids under the table. It is less than half the cost of paying a company. This was probably a big mistake as Medicaid will probably not accept this as a legitimate expense.
I have asked for help from my other siblings in the past. They always have plans that they cannot get out of or they have to work. Well I would be working and have other plans too, if I wasn't taking care of our mother 24/7.
I have always and still perform all the upkeep and repairs on this old house myself, (I used to be a contractor). If mom was in a nursing home or 24 hour help was hired to take care of her for the past five years, the value of the house would have been expended twice over by now. The past five years have taken a severe toll on me physically, mentally, spiritually, and financially. Is there anyone out there who has lived through similar circumstances and can give some advise and let me know how things turned out for them? Thanks for all of your care and support.
Franciss
Helpful Answer (0)
Report

... and they probably justify their feelings by saying you lived there rent free. That one always bothers me when I hear it. It is like telling someone that their time is so cheap that the rent for a single room would cover its worth.
Helpful Answer (2)
Report

I just want to add that your siblings are being appallingly selfish and ungrateful in this instance. That's not unprecedented or even that unusual in the experience of caregivers here but it's still infuriating and so disheartening every time I hear about it. You sold your house at a loss to do this, and lost years of earnings and benefits as well. You are the hero of the family, yet the others are willing to leave you penniless at the end of it. Outrageous!
Helpful Answer (1)
Report

You can also check the wording of your POA document and your state law regarding self-deeding of property. Some states allow it under certain circumstances, but you have to fit those circumstances or it is seen as a conflict of interest -- yours vs the intention of the owner that is expressed in the will.
Helpful Answer (1)
Report

This question has been closed for answers. Ask a New Question.
Related
Questions