Q: Both my father and stepmother were admitted into the hospital 2/5/2017. His blood/sugar level was at 900, he was diagnosed with vascular dementia and gets more confused every day. His wife has had Parkinson’s for 20 years, which has recently been getting worse. They’re about 80 years old. My stepmother is supposed to make all the decisions regarding my father’s health and finances, but she’s deferring most of those decisions to her son. My family wants my sister to have joint power of attorney with my stepbrother regarding my father’s health and finances and regarding any joint assets belonging to my dad and stepmother. My stepbrother says that’s fine with him, but has yet to do it. Instead he’s closed my father’s checking and savings accounts, is putting their house on the market and will not disclose any financial information. We’re afraid she’s planning to divorce our father and leave him broke in a substandard nursing home. My sister and I don’t live in the same city as our father. They live in Pittsburgh. My sister lives in Erie, I live in California and the stepbrother lives just north of Pittsburgh. What rights do we have in this situation to protect our father? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: That is a tough situation. You need to do some investigating quickly. You can call Adult Protective Services to assess him. Your sister may benefit greatly from consulting with an elder law attorney in Pittsburgh. It may be advisable to have her appointed Guardian of your father by the Orphan’s Court.
Q: Seeking POA & Health directive for elderly parents to sell home for medical care. However, the equity in the house is shared by my sister. It is a Trust deed shared by Parents and sibling -all 3 live together. Both parents are elderly and one is caregiver of the other who is seriously disabled. Both need medical attention so I want to intervene to force medical care. I want POA to sell house to counter expenses- medical and future assisted living cost. However, co-owner sibling of house does not want to sell house and wants house in retirement. Legally, once I get POA then I have control of parents finance and will sell home for the equity to pay for parent’s assisted living expenses and medical care. No money remains for-co-owner sibling, but she can utilize her portion of equity to pay for elderly parent’s medical expenses too.
A: Having the sister on the deed with the parents may be a problem for you as an agent on a power of attorney trying to sell this house. You need to have an estate planning or elder law lawyer look at the deed. If your sibling holds title as joint tenant or as a tenant in common, you just cannot remove her from the deed. What is happening here is why people should seek competent legal advice before putting a child on the deed to their home. You may also have some potential Medicaid issues if you believe either parent may need to apply for nursing care assistance in the future. You may be able to shelter the house and other assets and have the parents remain eligible for Medicaid, if you follow the advice of a good elder law lawyer. The fact that one spouse may remain in the home when the other is hospitalized and there is a child living in the home, may benefit your parents with Medicaid eligibility. This is a complicated situation and you need to consult with a lawyer.
Q: My mother is in a nursing home until she gets better with cellulitis. She wants to change her power of attorney to name me instead of my sister. Is she able to do that while being in a nursing home? Thank you. (Bridgeville, PA)
A: If she is mentally competent, absolutely. If her competency is not certain, you can ask her doctor if he would give an opinion. Also, the lawyer you hire to prepare the Power of Attorney can assess her competency before preparing the document. This should be your mother’s idea and not your idea.
ELDER LAW, COMPETENCY, POWER OF ATTORNEY
Q: My Dad passed away recently. My Mom is living but has dementia. They both have wills that state the property goes to the surviving spouse or if incompetent (Mom is) to me, the only child. I want to make sure the family property can never be taken away by medical situations, etc. (Swissvale, PA)
A: This is something that must be done under advice of a lawyer. First, mother needs to be competent to sign a deed. Moreover, there are many questions that must be asked to determine if this is an advisable transfer. The foremost question would be whether there is a possibility of her needing to apply for Medicaid in the five years following the transfer. If so, and you have not lived in this home for the preceding two years as a caretaker, this transfer could render her ineligible for Medicaid to the extent of the value of the transfer. Secondly, if you do not reside in this home, your mother will pay more in real estate taxes in that she will lose her homestead exemption and any senior citizen’s discounts available.
ELDER LAW, REAL ESTATE, TRANSFER, DEED, COMPETENCY, MEDICAID
Q: A family member moved in with my grandmother sold her house. My grandmother’s name was forged on the documents. We need to get it back.
A: I do believe your recourse is by hiring an attorney file a petition to rescind fraudulent transfer or a quiet title action. If you are correct this transfer was done through fraud. If grandmother is competent and can testify that the signature on the deed is not hers and she did not sign, the case is easier. If she is incompetent to testify, it will be a little more involved. You may need her doctor to testify of her mental competence at the time the deed was supposedly signed and perhaps even a handwriting expert. I would see an attorney as soon as possible so something can be filed before the house is transferred again.
Q: My mother-in-law is fifty-seven years old and isn’t in good health. My husband and I have seen a rapid regression in her. She doesn’t eat, she sleeps days at a time. She has dizzy spells, vomits, and is in my opinion killing herself right before our eyes. Today we went to see her and my father-in-law and she’s been sleeping for three days, puddle of black puke in a bucket, she’s lost much weight. I’m just in shock. Her husband has tried to take her Med-Express. She won’t go! She won’t seek help. What do we do? She has a six- year-old grandson and my daughter just turned one. Can I call medics and make them take her? Must the husband be a power of attorney? Please advise.
A: Based on what you say, this sounds serious. If you cannot get her to a hospital on her own, the fastest way would be to see if you can have her taken to the hospital under a mental health commitment. An interested party, i.e., family, police, physician, can have someone committed if they are a danger to themselves or others. It sounds like may be a danger to herself. The police would probably take her to a mental health hospital who would then transfer to ER. In the meantime, someone in the family can consult with a lawyer about becoming her guardian. You could also ask Adult Protective Services to do a home visit and assess her based on your concerns.
Q: She is almost ninety years old and they have spent most of their savings on home care- sitters and supplies and such. We were going to inherit the home later anyway. (Donegal, PA)
A: If there is any potential of either of these people needing to apply for Medicaid funding for their hospital or nursing care within the next five years, you should consult with an attorney versed in Medicaid regulations before you do anything. If Medicaid is a foreseeable issue, the general rule would be that this home should not be gifted to you and only purchased a market value with careful documentation such as appraisals, photographs, repair bills, etc.
Q: My sister is disabled and living in our mother’s home in Wheeling, WVA. My mother now resides in a senior living facility. My other sister wants to kick my disabled sister out, but she’s on disability and can’t afford housing. She claims that they need to sell the house to pay the $500 monthly facility cost. Please advise. (Pittsburgh, PA).
A: You need to get to a WVA elder lawyer who is versed in Medicaid and SSI law immediately. Every state manages it’s Medicaid program differently. However, my thought is that you might apply for Medicaid now and be able preserve the home if under the WVA Medicaid there is an exception for a disabled child living in the home, or a child living in the home who was serving as a caretaker at the time of the institutionalized parent’s application. Some state’s Medicaid rules have such provisions.
Q: My 70-year-old service disabled veteran father loaned money to a much younger person who he thought was a friend. That person has a failing business and asked my father for multiple loans, over a year or two, often promising to pay it back the following week. He has never paid back one penny. The loans total $23,000. At the time of the loans my father was heavily medicated for multiple health issues and was not thinking very clearly. The person that requested the loans does not deny that he borrowed the money and has even signed a handwritten document showing the total, however, he has made no effort to repay any of it. He owns a house, land, vehicles etc. that could be used to pay my father back. I’m trying to figure out to proceed. A small-town lawyer told my father that not much could be done. That even if the court ordered him to pay he still might never get it. Any advice you can provide would be much appreciated. I just don’t know where to even begin.
A: Much more information would need to be know if it would be worth suing this person or not. A lawyer would need to know if this person held any property of value in their own name. If they did, it might be worth suing to obtain a judgment. The judgment could then be executed on the property which could be seized and sold off to satisfy the debt. The problem is that many people are not worth suing because they have no property held in their name only or what they do have is mortgaged or already encumbered by a lien. For example, their house is held in husband and wife name, or their vehicles are also held with a spouse on the title. Both house and vehicles could also be encumbered by a mortgage.
Q: My oldest sister has guardianship in her home in Florida over my mom without mom’s knowledge of what she got it for. Mom’s 89 and in good health, she’s begging to come home and NOT HAVE TO LIVE WITH MY SISTER. (Monroeville, PA)
A: Law’s pertaining to guardianship are different for every state. Generally, if there is a court ordered guardian in place, it takes a court order to remove the guardian. To do this, you will need a lawyer to file a petition. Consult with a FLA elder lawyer.