Hello, my mother in-law resides in Connecticut and is currently in the process of losing her primary home. In April, my sister in-law was contacted by a bankruptcy lawyer in Connecticut who said he represented her mother. He said he had been working with her for a few years and that up until this spring, did not know she had children. He was calling to let her know that my mother in-laws second home in Massachusetts had been auctioned off - which we had no idea about, she never told us. He also said her primary home in Connecticut was in foreclosure and was to be auctioned off and purchased by the bank. He let us know that she stopped paying all of her bills several years ago including her car insurance. We were all in shock, as we were not aware of the magnitude of her financial problems. After trying to gain some clarity on the situation over the past few months, we've learned that she took out a reverse mortgage loan for $300K to help pay for repairs on her second home in Massachusetts. My mother in-law can only account for where she spent $25,000 of this loan, she doesn't know where the rest of the money went nor will she let us help her review financial records from the past 7 years to help sort this out. She is refusing to acknowledge the situation with her housing and we've been told the town marshal will be coming before end of summer to remove her and her possessions from the home. We have tried numerous times to talk to her about this situation, we've had a social worker involved, we've had a mental health screen conducted by her primary care physician (the results of which we are not sold on), she seems very scattered mentally and at times is very confused. Her doctor who is an older woman herself, is known for helping aging adults maintain their independence and she has said that my mother in-law is fully competent to handle herself and her own affairs. My husband, sister in-law and myself feel as thought we're at a dead end. Social Services has had to close the case because my mother in-law refuses to speak with them. We've engaged the help and services of the senior center that she frequents and she refuses to speak with them. She refuses to speak with her attorney who is still technically representing her and receives all communication regarding the foreclosure of her home. She refuses to speak with us and states that she will not be leaving her condo despite us explaining to her that she no longer owns it. We do not know what to do at this point, we are extremely concerned for her safety and well being. We feel as though she may have been a victim of financial fraud and we also fear she may be homeless soon. If you can offer any guidance at all on how we should proceed, I would be most grateful. We are all inexperienced in dealing with this situation and are trying to be respectful of her privacy but also feel as though we need to be her advocates in dealing with the adversity of this situation. If you've read this entire post, I thank you.

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What an intertwined hot mess......
My first ? for you (Patriots) is what state is mil a legal resident of AND are either you or your SIL a legal resident of same state & same county? If not, then IMO going guardianship or doing much significantly for MIL is a non-starter as the judge is more than likely wanting whomever would be appointed to be mil guardian / conservator to be resident of the county. ( Judges, in my experience, prefer it to be a resident of their county so they are within their purview if at all possible & if not you will have to be vetted by court via background check & maybe bonded).  If that's the case judge will instead probably name an atty or other vetted individual to be named. Most probate judges (where guardships are heard) have a list at the ready for these situations.

My second ? is do you/SIL want responsibility of MIL & have 20k + for legal needed in 2states?

Yes, you & SIL can go and hire attys but at this point in time to me it would be a pretty expensive as there's all sorts of forensics of mils finances that will need to be done plus deep dive into the bankruptcy atty & the MD & RM and all sorts of trolling though courthouse filings in 2 states & for what end???

If not, instead I'd suggest that you do 4 things-
1. Go online for the chain of paperwork on the MA property. Most courthouses have all online for a very nominal download fee. Most have everything from last decade or 15 years all online too, the older stuff couthouse ladies have to pull & mail to you. Anyone can get these, its public, you just gotta pay the document fee. Like $ 8.00 for Warranty Deed. Usually found in courthouse site either via "land records" or "chancery court records". It's done usually by PPIN which if you don't have (rotflol) you can get from an old tax assessor bill, so you may need to go to assessor site first to get the PPIN (or parcel number).
2. ditto on above for CT property
& while your at it (courthouse sites) put her name (& various name possibilities like w/initial or just maiden name) into the search records. If she has any judgements or othe legal, they will pop up. & you download these too. I'd bet downloading everything from both states runs under $ 200.
3. You do a "face sheet" on mil. Start with her DOB and then enter in by date all marriages, kids (even deceased), divorces and any probate filed on dead spouses. And all real property purchases and their status (like when sold, to whom & if atty involved atty name). Face sheet maybe a page or 2max. Just the hard specific details & no drama.
4. Whomever is going to be the point person for MIl (you, hubs, SIL....) contacts probate court for wherever mil is a legal resident for an in-chambers meeting with staff atty for the probate court / judge. Judge should have a docket or staff administrator who does these type of appointments for the judge & his/her court. You go and basically meet with staff atty (take all info from 1,2 & 3 all copied and organized in a binder) and ask what steps do we need to take to get a vulnerable adult MIL to be placed into being a emergency ward of the state & with a court appointed guardian (temporary if 1 of you live in county & want to take on this responsibility or permanent if not).

All this is the nuclear approach but cuts through the muck.
Realize if it happens, court appointed guardian is in charge. You all may be cut out totally. So try tobe nice & work with them. Providing a face sheet & courthouse downloads will help your being included.  If you all have been gobsmacked by the situation, which appears to be going on for years, others aren't likely to look too favorably on including you in decision making at this point in time. Again work with them & dont go into drama (come to this site to vent). The court appointed guardian can really get stuff done, file for discovery, get subpoenas out, place MIL in a facility, and all with judges support.

Let us know what happens, we all learn from each other.
Helpful Answer (10)

Wow, thank you all so, so very much. I wasn't sure what kind of feedback or information I would be able to find here but I have to say this has been a tremendous help to me and my sister in-law and husband. As far as next steps go, I am going to do the following:

Reach out to an Elder Law Attorney for a consultation to see what we can do. I'm also going to see what I can dig up on the attorney and find out if there have been any other complaints or similar issues. In regards to the family doctor, I'm going to send her letter as you suggest - return receipt. There was a recommendation for her to see a specialist for a full neurological screening but it's completely voluntary, and her primary referred her to someone who is over an hour away from her house, and doesn't accept her health insurance. We worked with the social worker to make arrangements for this doctor to make a house call and even offered to pay for it but she refuses.

There are a lot of comments and feedback above that have me thinking and working on a plan of action with my sister in-law. Thank you all again for your kindness, and for sharing your knowledge and experience in dealing with this situation. I will keep you posted as we hopefully make some progress.

Thank you all!
Helpful Answer (9)

The area on aging in Ca told my friend to let them know when her sister was about to be moved out of her home due to foreclosure and they would reopen her case to help find a place for sister to live. Friend found out that her sister was being scammed by someone posing as a social worker.

Regardless of what you find out about what mom did with the money, she will ultimately need a place to live. Unless one of you is prepared to take her in I would see if her case can be reopened at a similar point.
What are the clues available to you?

How old is MIL? Does she have retirement funds coming in? Social Security.
Does she have Medicare and supplemental insurance?
On your profile you mention dementia. Is she on medication?

When was the last time any of you saw her prior to the attorney contacting SIL?
Do you live nearby?

IMHO the ship has sailed for worrying about her privacy. She has less than 60 days to find a place to live. I know you want to treat her gently. She has been through a lot and more to come.

If MIL has a computer and email account and you can gain access you might be able to find if she has been communicating with a scammer online. Cat fishing I think they call it.

Have you checked county records to see if she has documents for court cases or marriages or car accidents?

Is she still driving? Is her car registered? In good repair?

Does she have credit cards? Could you get a credit report somehow?

If she has Facebook or other social media perhaps you can find acquaintances who might know something. Perhaps neighbors or old friends? Someone at the senior center?

Not knowing her age I may be suggesting things you know wouldn't be relevant.

One of you should move in with her for a week or two. You'll be much better able to see what's going on with her when she's relaxed a bit around you.

If you can gain access to her bank records that might be helpful.

You may have to file for guardianship before you can gather what you need to go after the crooks if that's even possible.

You might have to have her picked up by the sheriffs department and taken in for a mental evaluation to get around the older current doctors assessment. Someone who lost all their money and isn't paying bills and is about to be living under a bridge might be considered a danger to themself. This of course would only be a last resort if you were forced to take such action.

Is it possible she is a gambler? ( friends sister mentioned above was/is addicted to lottery)

Would she possibly have firearms in her condo?

What is the condition of the condo? Has she been keeping it clean ? How is her own personal hygiene? Is there food in the house? Is she able to perform activities of daily living (ADLs) outside of finances ? Does she have and use a telephone?

Perhaps she knows what she has done and is deeply ashamed and doesn't want to admit it, especially to her children.

I'm sure on some level she must know things are awfully wrong.

Does she have siblings or other relatives who may have been communicating with her?

Are there rogue nieces or nephews or possibly even grandchildren who could have gained her trust?

It's strange the attorney would contact your SIL and then clam up. I wonder where and how he got the contact info.
If she gave it to him that seems like a request for help.

Has your MIL been out to the secondary home with you?
Has she acknowledged she no longer owns it.

I can only imagine the shock your family must be in to discover all this going on. I think I'm in shock jumping all around with these suggestions. I'm just throwing it out there to try to help you think of alternatives, clues or possible next steps. I apologize if any if this seems disrespectful. If she should need Medicaid at some point she might not be eligible if she gave the money away. An elder attorney might be your best resource.

A big hug to all of you as you sort through this maze.

Please come back and let us know what you discover.
Helpful Answer (7)

First off, I'm so sorry that you are all going through this! What a nightmare!

Being a suspicious type, i would check the public records regarding the status of both properties.

I'm all for independent seniors, but does her doctor have any suggestion about where she's going to live when the Marshall comes to remove her? Has the doctor spoken to her about this situation?

I think I would then look into what is entailed in getting guardianship of your MIL. It's a complex and expensive proposition, but it will give you the ability to control where she lives and of her finances.

There are some really clever financial folks on this board. I'm going to see if I can get some of them to chime in.
Helpful Answer (6)

So, re: the doctor. HIPAA prevents the doctor from GIVING YOU information
( and if the info you're getting from the doc is filtered through MIL, I'd take it with a grain of salt), but you can and should tell her, in detail what is going on. I'd type out a bulleted precis of what you've told us and ask her to be in touch with MIL as to what arrangements she should be making as to how
Where she's gong to live independently once she's removed from her domicile. I'd send it return receipt so you know she's gotten it.

I'd be VERY suspicious of the lawyer/developer. I think I'd contact he Bar associated I action in the states where he's in practise and find out if there are any complaints.

Is MIL willing to allow any of you to be her POA? Does she have a health care proxy? Advance directive, dnr? Is anyone on a HIPAA release?

We have another poster here whose mom was in a similarly awful situation, no formal documents; she stroked out on the eve of eviction. Leaving her poor daughter in quite a mess with no ability pay bills, hire caregivers, etc. You REALLY don't want to be there.
Helpful Answer (5)

There are such things as forensic accountants. Whether they'd be willing or qualified to help in a family, rather than a corporate, situation I couldn't tell you, but you could do worse than ask.

Check the lawyer out, I agree. How does a personal bankruptcy require a lawyer to work on it for "a few years"?

Also, how long has your mother known her doctor? I'm not a big conspiracy theorist type, tend to pooh-pooh them, but it seems impossible that the doctor is not aware of your mother's extreme financial difficulties at least to some degree; and it seems odd that she was so instantly dismissive. And after Harold Shipman, we should perhaps all be a bit jumpier.

And you've tried the police, have you?
Helpful Answer (5)

Something doesn't sound quite right here, and the first red flag is the Attorney. Why on earth would Mom-in-law have contacted an Attorney a few years ago, OR did the Attorney contact her to drum up business??? I would be curious to see the billing statements over the past few years between the Attorney and Mom-in-law. See if you can find a paper trail.

Second red flag... how did Mom-in-law learn about Reverse Mortgages? Usually elders don't know about these, unless they really pay attention to the TV ads, but then again those ads can sound daunting. On the Reverse Mortgage, maybe your Mom had a line of credit up to $300k but she only used $25k of the amount. Hopefully she didn't get a lump sum of $300k. Who was the banker/mortgage company? Another paper trail.

As for not paying bills, my Dad was starting to do that. Thank goodness his caregiver noticed unpaid bills in the paper recycling and called me. My late Mom use to take care of all the bill paying, so my Dad thought the bills were junk mail.... [sigh].

Locate an Elder Law Attorney and sit down with him/her and go over what has been happening. These Attorneys are use to such issues.
Helpful Answer (4)

Hoping this is not an ignorant question, however:
Has someone in your family actually visited you Mil,
layed eyes on her,
stayed with her for awhile?

How far away do you live from her?

Any documents, public records, (deeds) can be obtained through a process serving company/court filing. Less expensive than an attorney.
Helpful Answer (4)

ASAP, contact the Town Marshall to determine if there is a date set for eviction. Ask what is the procedure for eviction for elderly/impaired person. For now, focus on getting MIL resettled into a safe place. In the process, preserve any documents that exist when they are put to the curb. After that, you can begin the process of finding out how this occurred.
Helpful Answer (3)

If MIL isn't paying her bills then how is her attorney being paid?

When you visit the elder law attorney, have a list of questions prepared ahead of time

Also as Send has asked, who has visited MIL recently?
Helpful Answer (3)

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