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?

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Lots of questions and issues here.

First, a clarification of your statement that you put your name on the title. As I understand it, you sold your house, and have been living with your mother. Did she execute a quit claim deed to you before she was diagnosed with Alz? Did you have any part in preparing the deed, or in "adding your name"?

Second, if your mother was already diagnosed with Alz, there may be a question as to the validity of the deed because of cognition issues. It could be argued that she wasn't able to understand the consequences of her action.

Third, if you actually inserted your name on a deed, and asked your mother to sign it, there may be a charge leveled of undue influence.

Fourth, has this deed been recorded?

Fifth how do your siblings know about this?

Sixth, are you and your mother holding title jointly, or with rights of survivorship?

I know these are technical questions, but they will influence responses to your questions.

Next phase:

1. Your brother's powers as executor won't actuate until your mother passes.

2. At that time, the whole issue of the deed may come into play; it depends on the answers to the questions I raised. That's when things could get nasty.

3. As to whether they can evict you, that also depends on the terms of the deed. As to winning, no one can predict the disposition of a suit; it depends on a lot of factors - their attorney, your attorney, the facts, and especially the facts.

4. If they can prove fraud, or undue influence, or perhaps coercion, they may have legal grounds to take action to invalidate the deed. But that's a process with which familiar only in concept. They might have to file suit to rescind the deed.

5. Did you execute any kind of caregiver contract with your mother before she developed Alz? Have you kept track of all your expenditures for her? Have the siblings flatly refused to help out, and are they local or far away?

6. Just to be on the safe side and calm your fears, I would contact the local county and bar attorney bar association and find out how to see someone at a free legal aid clinic. Take the deed with you, as well as any caregiver contract or itemization of expenses for the care you've provided.
Helpful Answer (4)

franciss, since both you and your mother have drained your savings and her's, get your mother qualified for Medicaid... that way your mother could go into a nursing facility and Medicaid will pay for her care. It might not be what you want, but what other choice do you have?

With your mother in a full-time nursing facility, you can get back into the job market and start building up your retirement fund. Otherwise, what will you do for funds to keep maintaining the house, paying real estate taxes, insurance, utilities, etc?
Helpful Answer (4)

I am starting to think that it never turns out well, for the caregiver. Has 5 years passed since you were put on the house title?

Will you collect your Soc. Sec. in about 18 months? And will it be enough to survive on? Or maybe you will be able to collect from a former husband.

Make certain that you have receipts for everything and detail that hours you are caring for your mom. One thing that would help, would be a contract between you and her.

The question that I always ask is, what is the plan for your mom, if she out lives you?
Helpful Answer (3)

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)

You need an attorney to get your questions answered. If you used your POA to enrich yourself by putting your name on the house, chances are good that you've committed a crime. If you directed your mom to do that and didn't use your POA to do so, you may be okay. Or, if her doctor says she probably wasn't competent to do so, you could be in trouble.

Most people here understand what you've done, though, and it's not very pretty. When you say you put your name on the house, that's pretty clear.
Helpful Answer (2)

I understand what you did, but as others wrote, what will happen depends on the circumstances. If your mother added you to the deed when she was still competent, then there is a chance the deed will stand. It would be especially helpful if there was a written word about it being payment for what you've done for her. If you added your name to the deed yourself, then it will be seen as abuse of the power of the POA and will most likely not stand. Sometimes things that seem fair are not necessarily legal. Please let us know the technicalities and maybe one of the group experts will see the thread.
Helpful Answer (2)

... 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.
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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)

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)

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!
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