How to find legal advice if short on funds in Westchester Cty, New York?
February 4, 2016 3:25 PM   Subscribe

A neighbor, an unemployed male over 40 with no employment prospects and very limited funds, needs legal advice in two areas: (i) family law, concerning a disabled mother (i.e., dementia) under the control of a questionably honest attorney-in-fact, and (ii) real estate law (and possibly commercial law), concerning the intent of the attorney-in-fact to evict said neighbor from a cooperative apartment owned by the mother. You may not be a lawyer; your are not my or his lawyer; you will not be offering legal advice.

The primary problem is the state of his mother, the quality of care she is receiving and the management of her property (both financial and tangible). The attorney-in-fact (Agent) is an elderly (>80 y.o.) lawyer (i) of long acquaintance to the mother, (ii) for whom the mother worked part time, on and off, and (iii) who also served as the mother's "financial advisor." In addition to working as a lawyer, he had a side line as an investment advisor; his record at FINRA is NOT clean (e.g., a record of inappropriate investments and settlements).

The mother's sister was involved in directing at least some of the mother's arrangements over the past year as the mother's dementia reached a point it could no longer be denied by others. The son's involvement during this time involved visiting daily and helping out with things as they arose; the aunt has not been forthcoming with details on the mother's condition or plans for her care or future; the lawyer / advisor "friend" does not respond to the son.

The POA was signed in April 2015; the mother was placed in the assisted living / memory care facility in June (and within 48 hours had wandered out of it unaccompanied); her main residence / condo in Danbury, CT seems to have been sold in recent weeks; the whereabouts of the contents of the condo are unknown; the Agent / "friend" will not respond to the neighbor; the neighbor has been informed in writing that he will be served with eviction proceedings.

Which brings us to the secondary problem: the intent of the Agent to evict the son from the cooperative apartment owned by the mother (here in Westchester Country). He has been living effectively rent free through a many-years-long agreement with the mother that long predates her disability; it has been the understanding that he would eventually inherit the property. (Why rent free? The son's economic prospects have been torpedoed by the economy; he futilely searches for work.)

Also: there seems to be nothing in writing stating the intent for the son to live in and / or inherit the coop. He realizes that it may be necessary for him to move so that the property can be sold to generate funds for the mother's care, but he has nowhere to go; has little money; and will be homeless if evicted. So his goal here is to delay.

The biggest concern: his mother. He is concerned about the quality of her care and has legitimate questions and concerns with respect to how her care is being coordinated and her assets managed for her benefit. He has questions about the legitimacy of the POA and the capacity and honesty of the acting Agent; he believes it might be better for his mother if he became the Agent.

[Note: I've been in the weeds of elder care for more than a decade, and have served several relatives as Attorney-in-Fact, Executor and / or Trustee depending upon evolving life circumstances. What I've heard of this story makes my skin crawl; I believe the son's concerns to be more than justified.]

So, where to find / how to find a lawyer who can help him under either a deferred billing arrangement (i.e., he is hopeful of some sort of employment eventually) or pro bono?

So far, he has tried Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, which seems disinclined or unable to help him given the complexity of the situation.

Any thoughts?

I apologize for the lengthy verbiage, but figured context might matter to an answer. As always, any and all input will be appreciated! Many thanks!
posted by cool breeze to Law & Government (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: check your memail!
posted by firei at 3:55 PM on February 4, 2016

Best answer: He might to contact the Department of Protective Services for the Elderly in Connecticut about his concerns for his mother and possible financial abuse/neglect by her attorney-in-fact. They might be able to ask question with more authority to invoke answers than he can.
posted by metahawk at 4:08 PM on February 4, 2016

Best answer: This first link includes Catholic Charities on their list of potential resources:

I have firsthand experience with Catholic Charities (though not in New York). They were one of the highest quality relief organizations that served me when I was really destitute and desperate for a time. Give them a call and see if they can refer you to someone.

I also found this:
New York lawyers serving the public good.
posted by Michele in California at 4:40 PM on February 4, 2016

Best answer: I sent you a memail. I am in Westchester. (I am not a lawyer although my mother wishes I was.)

I would call an attorney who does trustee work and elder law, have a consult and ask them for advice on a pro bono or cheap way to do this. You, having experience in this mucky area, can have an intelligent conversation with an expensive attorney who may be able to direct you to a pro bono one or give an idea what to do next.
posted by AugustWest at 7:37 PM on February 4, 2016

Response by poster: Thank you much! I've passed along your suggestions with a few more of my own. The hive mind is a wonderful thing; if only the rest of the "internets" was so productive.
posted by cool breeze at 2:23 PM on February 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

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