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My mother has enetered the dementia unit of a pretty good nursing home. She will never come back home. At the end of the month, I need to give up her apartment. I have a sister who lives out of state, but I have taken total responsibility for every aspect of her care since 2006, when she began to decline. (My dad's been dead since 1983.) I am mom's POA, HCP, and the executor of her will and (modest) estate. The question is around her antique (and non-antique) furniture. In her will, she left part to my sister and part to her cousins (who actually asked in 2008 if they could have certain pieces upon her death!Mom agreed! Btw, my cousins live on the opposite coast, have not seen my mom since 2008, and may or may not even remember the agreement.) The thing is, mom's not dead and I am unclear on what action to take now that I need to get everything out of the apartment. (I don't want to "store" everything at my house, waiting for her to die.) I don't believe we're under any legal obligation to keep belongings we no longer need, just to leave them to someone after death. Had these items not been willed, I would dispose of (donate, sell) them as I saw fit and the proceeds would become part of her estate. But they are willed, and I am struggling with the legality and morality of what to do. Neither my sister nor my mother care much about mom, and I am working to clean out 54 years worth of "stuff" alone and against a time contraint (I also work full time). If it matters, in the last 15 years, my sister has come to vist my mother 5 times. As another aside, I have reason to believe my sister could care less about having the furniture. Advice? Sorry for the long post and the fact that it's not exactly about "caregiving," but I have found this group to be a weath of knowledge.

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FYI, I asked a lawyer his opinion and here's what he said:

"Nothing can stop your sister from suing you if she chooses to, but the items bequeathed in the will are your mother's possessions to do with what she pleases until she is gone and the will comes into effect. Your sister has no claim on the furniture just like I have no claim on my mother's co-op in Brooklyn. My mother is going to sell her co-op soon to aid her in retirement and that is her prerogative. Basically, your sister has no right to the furniture because she does not have a contract to receive the furniture from your mother. It's a gratuitous transfer with no consideration from your sister and it comes into play only AFTER a bright-line contingency--your mother's passing. If your sale of the furniture is in your mother's interest and not yours, I would say that you are doing your duty as POA.

As always, please keep in mind that this should not be considered legal advice because I have not been retained and I have not researched the subject matter specifically.
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Thanks for that Sunnygirl; I have consulted a lawyer. If I did that, I'd open an account in my own name.
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Christine, I would be careful of selling items and putting the money in the bank to cover her future needs. If Medicaid does a review, and sees she has assets that exceed their limit which I believe is $2000.00, then it could cause a kink in her eligibility. I'm not trying to be difficult, it's just this is what I have been told over and over by people who have experienced it and by a couple of elder law attorneys. Things may be exempt until they turn to cash and then it's a different story.

Perhaps there is a way to turn the exempt household property into funds that can cover her necessities, but I would get it in writing and made very clear first.
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OP here again.Thanks Countrymouse, Sunnygirl1, and flegflyer for your input. Update/clarification: since my mom's in a nursing home, they're taking everything (meaning her ss check). She will have only $50 a month left for her needs. She's going to need a $1600 denture, among other things (toiletries, clothing, paid services at the nursing home, etc.) Since she's not dead, her assets are still rightfully hers. As her POA, I feel her furniture and anything else she won't use should be sold, and the moneys used to finance her needs and contribute to the cost of her funeral. I've spent thousands of dollars on my mother's needs over the years and I can't afford to do it anymore. My sister has contributed nothing, but is adamant that she wants "everything my mother wanted me to have." If only she knew that my mother really didn't want her to have anything, but I convinced both of them that my sister should have the furniture since I didn't want it. Now I find out it's antique and worth money. That could buy my mother her denture!
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Christine, if this is any consolation, my late aunt made a point of giving us all our 'bequests' while she was still around to supervise. She didn't trust her executor to pay close attention to which item was meant to go to which person, and besides - that way she got the thanks while she was still around to appreciate them. I agree, it is hard to avoid the mental image of people sitting around a table with napkins tucked over their tummies, knife and fork in hand… but the key thing is that your mother's wishes, as she wrote them down, get put into effect. And if she gets some pretty cards and maybe a phone call or two - or even a visit! - out of it, so much the better. She'll be glad that her most meaningful items have gone to good homes.
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My understanding is that the Medicaid recipient's household property is exempt from determination of eligibility, however, if they are converted to cash, then the value is used. It's a complicated can of worms IMO and I have been trying to sort out similar issues with my loved one. I'm afraid as to which move to make. I'm going to consult with an elder law attorney before I make any move.
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I would check with an Elder Law attorney as to what you could legally do in this case about items in a Will.

I would think that the person named in the Will, and the item(s) attached to that name, that you could give that item to that person.... put it in writing, take a photo of said item(s) and have you and the person sign their name/date that the item had been picked up. That way, say 5 years down the line and your Mom passes on, the person cannot come back and say she didn't receive the item mentioned in the Will. Just a thought.

As for the rest of the household furniture and items, auction houses will come in and haul away all the items, but you may need to have a moving company come in to box it up. Then the items are sold and you get 50% or whatever of the buyers paid.

Some elders will Will household items without realizing the logistics involved in getting a huge five piece massive King Arthur's dining room set with 20 large high back chairs from point A to point B, and that the grand-daughter may not have room for the set now... 30 years after that then 10 year old grand-daughter said how she wished she had a dining room set like that.
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Original poster here. Thanks, everyone for your input. To answer your questions, I have the end of the month. The sale won't affect her medicaid status. The lawyer who did the original paperwork had been disbarred and I no longer have any contact info for her.

I still feel weird giving away her willed property while she's alive. I would also feel weird selling the items to the ppl they're willed to. I feel that right now, her life has changed such that she may need the cash a sale might bring. She's only allowed to keep $50 a month of her own ss because the NH gets the rest. My fear is that this will open a huge can of worms I don't have the time or energy for. Are these people entitled to these things before my mother dies? I know, I'm going around in circles...
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Agree, notify those persons aligned to specific pieces and tell them if they want them to come and get them or pay for shipping. Give them 30-60days to arrange. Consid having an estate appraiser or local auction house come in and provide estimates on key pieces and you take pictures and send out if you want to relatives and give them option to purchase, if they don't, have them auctioned and make money part of estate. I know how you feel, your doing all the work and in the end splitting it with sis who has done nothing including visiting mom...but what can you do? You might ask her if she would consider rebating part of her share for all the work you have done but don't hold your breath.
I'll be in this same boat, although my mom has nothing of value. I'm going to donate all the furnishings to church or Lutheran services who help set up households to new immigrants, etc. the rest will go to Habitat store (they pick up) clothes, old linens, etc. to trash.
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If you've got a copy of the will, write formally to everyone who has been named as a recipient of these items and give them reasonable notice that your mother's effects have to be cleared now. The message being: now or never, come and collect them.

I am assuming that these items wouldn't amount to a substantial monetary value, and that their value won't become material to a Medicaid claim?

I think the ethical point, for you as a caregiver, is that in using your POA you are expected to enact her wishes as far as you can reasonably determine them. Leaving aside how deserving these people are, you know what your mother's wishes are - she wants people to have these keepsakes. That's why you should make a reasonable effort to follow her instructions; but I stress 'reasonable'. No, you don't have to find storage room, no you don't have to sling a wardrobe over your back and walk to your sister's house to deliver it; just give them a fair chance either to make arrangements for collection or else waïve their bequests. How long have you got before her home has to be cleared?
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Ask the sister and cosins if they would like to buy the furniture. Explain everything must be liquidated to fund your Mom's care. If they want it, sell it to them. If not dispose how you like. Do what is easiest for you. Good luck
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I would get legal advice, however, as her POA, it's your duty to do what is in the best interest of her..now and not to protect the future legal interest of some third parties.
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Can you consult the lawyer who drew up the will?
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