Uncle may be trying to take over Grandpa's assets. Do we need to act?
December 17, 2016 1:34 AM   Subscribe

My (fairly naive, big-hearted) mom and aunt have started to suspect that my uncle's family's sudden interest in my ailing grandfather's care is an attempt to get close to his assets and spend his money before he dies. Should they do something to prevent it? Is it possible at all?

After some rather aggressive and, in my opinion, transparent conversations with uncle, I am also starting to believe something is cooking.

My mom (who lives near grandpa) and aunt (who lives 1000km away) have been the ones most involved in grandpa's care since grandma died, including taking care of his doctor's appointments, getting his medicines, arranging for a caregiver, etc. They wouldn't touch grandfather's assets for their own benefit, because that is not who they are, but they have been trying to get him to spend in his own care (for a while, he wouldn't even buy his own medication, although, and let me be emphatic, he definitely has the money. He is just a bit... frugal, which is probably why now, at 90, he has so much of it.)

In the past two years, though, they've noticed increasing interest from my uncle, which is great, he should get involved and help out! But the thing is, the improvements he has suggested create a reasonable doubt that he may be trying to use grandpa's care as an alibi to get close to his assets. Among his suggestions are:

- Grandpa should abandon his house (which he owns), put it on rent, and move into a new house my uncle plans to buy in his town, about 300 kms away. Caveat? About a year ago one of his youngest children (unintentionally) revealed to my sister that my uncle and his wife don't actually have the money to move into the larger, better located house they'd like to own. We think this is my uncle trying to get my grandpa to pay for his new house under the guise of "caring" for him.

I understand it's grandpa's money, and if he wants to help his son, my mom and aunt are actually all for it. It just seems so unnecessarily underhanded that it makes us skeptical.

- Uncle gets super worked up about "how expensive this is for dad" when he talks to mom & aunt about their proposed solutions (24h caregiver at my grandfather's house), which are not only financially viable, but partly financed by my aunt, and supplemented in part with my mom's own labor. It is sketchy because uncle simultaneously claims to care supremely about grandpa's health, and opposes necessary care giving on account of its cost, but not cost to him, but to grandpa.

- Small gestures such as my uncle's wife picking through my grandma's closet and taking stuff to wear herself. While she had grandpa's permission, common sense was telling us my grandma's clothes belong to my mom and her sister, for their sentimental value.

- Uncle has offered to "manage my grandfather's assets for free". At the moment, grandfather is managing his own assets, ie. letting them sit in a bank. My mom does his shopping and carries his debit card, but all bank statements are sent to him (my mom meticulously leaves all receipts in his house), and he maintains full control over them. Well, I shudder at the thought of my uncle managing my grandfather's assets at a time in which my uncle is in need of money. That just smells opportunistic and dubious.

Grandpa is very easy to influence and keeps changing his mind about what he wants (for instance, at first he was super enthusiastic about moving in with uncle, but now he doesn't want to, he may later decide it's great). They're trying to convince him to invest in things, which just sounds like a super dubious thing to tell a 90-year old with more than enough resources. So we think that, if we let this happen, my uncle and his wife will end up appropriating all of or part of my grandfather's assets. It is a really infuriating thought.

Of course, my mom and aunt have a vested interest in not letting this happen, as it is also their future inheritance (which would then be fairly split). But we (my mom, aunt, and their respective spouses and children) see my uncle and his wife as... well, vultures and feel compelled to stop it because it is just so immensely disrespectful and cheap and disgusting to fight over an old person's assets.

Is there a way to solve this?
Or should we just remove ourselves, let them have it, and save our souls?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Grandpa's financial advisor is who? None? Get him one? His lawyer is who? None? Get him one.

He could go down tomorrow or in ten years. What does he want?

You post anon, seem tepid and unwilling to rally the good part of your family. Just do it. This is bothering you for a reason.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 4:11 AM on December 17, 2016 [21 favorites]

Does your grandpa have a will? It's not clear to me from your question. If he doesn't, then the first thing you guys should do is find a lawyer and get your grandpa to write a will.
posted by colfax at 4:36 AM on December 17, 2016 [7 favorites]

If your grandfather is ailing, he's going to need as much financial wherewithal possible, in order to cover healthcare expenses that Medicare doesn't pay for (or pay much for.) Is he bad off enough to trigger his POA taking over his affairs? Is he lucid enough to have a direct conversation about what you feel the uncle is trying to do?

I'm afraid you're going to have to get tough with the uncle and tell him to fuck the hell off. And, be very direct about his transparent attempts to take control of your grandfather's estate. Does your grandfather have an attorney? If so, get them involved immediately. If not, get your own elder-care attorney involved.

Sadly, an elder in failing health all too often brings out the worst (i.e. greed) in many family members.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:56 AM on December 17, 2016 [4 favorites]

There may come a time when he will need to have a conservator appointed. In some states, a person who is competent can nominate someone for that role, and the nominated person has first priority for appointment. This is another point to raise with the attorney she should see soon.
posted by megatherium at 4:57 AM on December 17, 2016 [4 favorites]

I'm sensing that since you're using kilometers you're probably not in the US. I'm not a lawyer and I don't know what the law is in your jurisdiction, but if it were my grandpa, I'd look into having your mom granted power of attorney or its equivalent. That would mean that although it would still be possible for your grandpa to give his son money, it would not be possible for your uncle to simply seize control of his assets without getting your mom to agree to it.
posted by Diablevert at 6:46 AM on December 17, 2016 [8 favorites]

He's 90 and needs caregiver help already and has significant assets? The uncle is definitely planning on getting stuff done somehow. Depending on the jurisdiction that can happen in all sorts of ways, and while it can be challenged later, it's expensive and painful (I just received another $8,000 lawyer bill today regarding the coming on to a DECADE arguments over my late father's estate).

Get your mother and aunt and you to a recommended estate lawyer who can walk you through your options for where you live. Get power of attorney lined up, figure out who in the family will talk to grandpa about making sure his will is fine. Some countries will not allow you to split assets differently among children, some will. If you live in a country where granddad can only inherit equally to all his children, uncle can still have "gifts" given prior to clear out the estate, or have himself named as the estate manager and pay himself large fees, etc. A good lawyer will know the usual exploitations and how to prevent them.

Your family probably doesn't like confrontation. You also have people who are genuinely kind and doing things from good motives who are working with people who are not, which is emotionally very tough, and easily exploited.

Depending on the family dynamics and history, if this is important to you, don't but the blame on the actual blood relative (uncle?) because he's still their brother and grandfather's son. Blame his wife and her family as pressuring him into these actions, even if you know he's a jackass. It can be too much to expect people to take action AND emotionally deal with a painful family truth at the same time. Focus on the practical.

Talk to a lawyer now. Save yourself so much grief (literal as well as metaphorical!) later on.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 7:55 AM on December 17, 2016 [5 favorites]

IAAL, IANYL, I am not licensed in your jurisdiction or even your country, this is not legal advice.

Grandpa needs a lawyer yesterday. He needs to set up power of attorney, appoint a caregiver, and set up a will, possibly putting his assets into various trusts (for care, for his children). Your uncle MUST NOT BE THERE for any of this.

As far as the clothes and personal effects go, your mom and aunt need to go take care of this. Unfortunately this kind of behavior is all too common when people have elderly or ailing relatives with money, and it's very easy for people to functionally take over the estate by getting at it before the person dies.

Get moving. Go.
posted by bile and syntax at 7:55 AM on December 17, 2016 [11 favorites]

Also, look up the laws regarding elder abuse in your area. Here, we have an office where both physical and financial abuse of elderly people can be reported, and it requires an investigation. Here is our local state page on financial exploitation, for example.

We split the medical and financial POA in our family. In retrospect, it wasn't a great idea, because the person with the financial POA was too far away to be helpful when it came time to exact the POA. But do make sure someone with his bests interests are heart are also granted medical power of attorney, because you don't want someone who is interested in his assets with that power (i.e., putting him in a cheap nursing home, etc. and not wanting care attendants, etc.).

It might also be advisable, with his permission, for your mother to take photos of the things in the house. Just in case something more valuable than clothing goes missing.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 8:05 AM on December 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

bile & synxtax is 100% correct. If your grandfather is mentally competent, he should set up a power of attorney for financial decisions, a power of attorney for medical decisions, and make sure he has a will in place. He should meet with an elder care or estate planning attorney ASAP.

In the US, if an adult is not mentally competent, and did not set up a power of attorney when they were competent, a conservatorship needs to be set up through the court system. This is a pain, time consuming, and often expensive. It's much, much easier anbd less expensive to set everything up to automatically go into place if and when someone can't make their own decisions anymore.

A careful attorney will talk to your grandfather privately, without any of his children in the room to ensure that your grandfather is making his own decisions and is not being coerced or unduly influenced.
posted by insectosaurus at 9:19 AM on December 17, 2016 [5 favorites]

Oh man, so this reminds me a lot of the disputes that took place when one of my grandmothers became ill and ultimately died. (Same situation, 2 sisters, 1 brother, brother not involved in care but wants to be when it might be expensive)

The first thing we learned is that many people do not think about how inheritance is split until the person is actually dying, and it is an ENORMOUS conflict. My uncle had actually expected all his life that he would be the sole inheritor, as the eldest and only son. My mother had expected it would be split more evenly. My grandmother, very late in life, revealed that she also wanted "her son" to handle everything - but he lived 3000 miles away. There initially wasn't a will, but he got her to make one. He also didn't want to pay for a full time caretaker, because that was "his inheritance" that my mother wanted to "waste" when as a "dutiful daughter" she could "just" do all the caretaking herself.

I think you need to separate out the problems, because they are intertwined but separate, and some need dealing with and others don't.

1) The Problem of Your Grandmother's Stuff - I really wouldn't fight this one. If your grandfather is competent, fighting about this small stuff is just not going to gain you good outcomes. Trust me. I saw this destroy half of my family. Your mother is viewing the stuff as sentimental, your uncle's wife is seeing this as stuff that she was given by place of being your uncle's wife. It will only end in unnecessary tears.

2) The care of your grandfather. If he is competent, he needs to be asked what he wants. You say that he's extremely frugal, so he may also be uninterested in paying for care - you say he didn't even want to pay for medicine at first until persuaded. It sounds like everyone has been trying to influence him - your mom and aunt because they love him and want him there longer with him, your uncle because he doesn't want the inheritance depleted. He needs a neutral party who can relay his decisions without having the weight of "but I love you" on it.

3) His assets 1000% do not need to be managed by an interested party. I would hold firm on this one, and threaten to take him to court if he tries it. This is the one you need to fight back on hard. This is completely sketch as fuck.
posted by corb at 10:33 AM on December 17, 2016 [10 favorites]

My mom has made a thriving small business out of being a fiduciary - elderly people hire her to advise them on financial matters, especially when there are shady family members afoot. She knows all the ins and outs legally, and has relationships with lawyers and law enforcement officials (for elder abuse situations). I think this is what Grandpa needs - an expert third party with only HIS interests in mind. Many older people know or suspect that their family members are trying to fleece them, but can't quite put their finger on it and don't know what to do anyway. They're more than happy to let my mom be the "bad guy" who says no and deals with all the conflict for them.
posted by ctmf at 1:26 PM on December 17, 2016 [15 favorites]

If he hasn't done so already, your granddad should draw up a will. My grandmother was in a very similar situation in her last years, and very confused about what to do - she loved all her children equally but worried that they had very different motives for whatever they did. Then she became seriously ill, and luckily survived, and she realized that a will would give her peace of mind. She never told anyone about the content of the will, but she announced it was set and done, and that set her free to make choices without worrying wether we were helping her in order to score the money or because we wanted to help her. TBH, it was also an amazing "sorting hat". Those who had been greedy didn't even turn up at her deathbed. I remember one night, a cousin who lives on the other side of the ocean and wasn't able to come called, and I told her, and said to her "come on Gran, he is a good boy". Because I knew she had been in doubt about him. Her reply was "yes, I know now, and all is good". In her own perception, she had intuitively made the right choices, and that cousin actually inherited a very large sum. Her will was fair, but also quite unusual, and basically she had given most of the inheritance due to her greedy child to the next generation. Apart from one of those cousins, they were all amazingly caring during her last years, completely different from their parent.
Another thing: the person who was not actively caring was actually controlled by their spouse, who had only ever married for the money. My relative is a very warm and caring person, but desperate for the love of that spouse who insisted on big mansions and cars and stuff. Maybe that applies in your family too?
posted by mumimor at 2:01 PM on December 17, 2016

If it helps, what you want to look for is an "Elder Care Attorney." They specialize in, and can help with all the things discussed (a will, financial power of attorney, spending down if necessary for Medicaid when he needs it), but also issues like a living will and planning for long-term care or other medical needs down the road. They will be well-versed in situations like the one you describe, and often work in tandem with a social worker who can explain to your grandfather, your mom and your uncle what the plan is and suggest ways to move forward.
posted by Mchelly at 3:56 PM on December 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

Reading corb's comments brought back so many memories. I watched two families destroyed -- literally they are no longer in touch with each other. My in-laws fell out over an old washing machine, and my father and my mother's family over who had taken Mom's fur muff?? They didn't need an actual inheritance to fight over.

After going through those shitstorms, I decided I would never do it again. When someone dies, I take one step back and put my hands behind me. I expect nothing. I have no opinions about who gets what. I don't need my "fair share" and I don't need a sentimental souvenir. I've had a lot of family loss in the years since I made that decision, and I've never regretted it.

It sounds hard hearted, but what your Mom gets from her Dad, what your Uncle wants, who gets dead Mom's clothes, is entirely up them. People go crazy when it comes to dying; probably a lot of it being misplaced grief and fear, but still .... you try to get involved, you go crazy, too.

I know you probably can't hear this, it sounds like perhaps the first time you've had to deal with these questions, but still I can't help myself: leave the whole mess alone, don't try to make things right. Love everybody as much as you can, and don't take sides.

You sound like a very caring family member. Good luck.
posted by kestralwing at 5:25 PM on December 17, 2016 [3 favorites]

Uncle has offered to "manage my grandfather's assets for free". At the moment, grandfather is managing his own assets, ie. letting them sit in a bank [...] Uncle gets super worked up about "how expensive this is for dad" when he talks to mom & aunt about their proposed solutions (24h caregiver at my grandfather's house), which are not only financially viable, but partly financed by my aunt, and supplemented in part with my mom's own labor....

I am really sorry that this is happening in your family, and I know I have biases because my mom took care of my grandma while other siblings/children did nothing, but my emphatic reaction when I read this was: FUCK NO UNCLE JOE.

The way you, your mom, and your aunt can stop this is by working with your grandpa and a lawyer (or estate planner, financial adviser, whatever the right professional is in your country) to choose one of his children to manage his health care and finances if he is ever unable to do so himself. The risk is that he chooses your uncle, sure, but that's an active risk right now , and you, your mom, and your aunt can and should make a very strong case that your mom should be the child he chooses, because she is the closest. Put it like this: "Dad, you know I don't want your money. If I did, I would have been slipping champagne and caviar into the grocery cart for the past two years. But what if you have a heart attack and a pipe bursts while you're in the hospital? Or your pension paperwork needs to be returned and no one knows where it is? How will I pay the electric bill if you have to stay in a rehab facility for three months and the bank freezes your account?" Whatever the practical concerns are in your country and in your grandfather's life, sub in, because I'm sure there are a lot of them. Tailor your approach. If he's frugal and practical, emphasize how expensive it will be if something goes wrong with the house and no one has the power to fix it. Your family knows how to persuade him.

It's your grandfather's money, and he can give it to your uncle if he wants to. There are above board and non-shady ways to do that, and that's fine. If your grandfather wants to do that (although I bet he doesn't, and I bet your uncle knows that, and that's why he hatched this plan to have them live together, "manage" his assets, etc- so he can get the money he wants without asking aka by stealing), the lawyer can help him arrange something when they draw up the other paperwork. Parents give children gifts of money, property, etc. That's okay. It's fine to want to leave something for your children rather than spend on yourself. But your grandfather did not work hard his entire life, saving so carefully that he won't even buy himself an antibiotic or a hypertension pill, so that he could spend his final years (or, realistically at 90, his final months) lying on the floor for hours because he fell and your mom hasn't gotten off work to check on him yet, or eating cold cereal and granola bars because he's too frail to cook alone and there is no one in the house to prepare food for him, or sleeping on soiled sheets because he can't change them himself, all so your uncle can buy a bigger house someday. Your uncle does not have your grandfather's best interests at heart. Trust your instincts.

"Manage his assets for free," my God. As opposed to what, his usual fee for investment services??? That's the friends and family rate for his professional advice? Like it's such an amazing deal you can't pass it up? What's his plan for the portfolio, 10-year bonds? Your grandfather's 90 freakin' years old. And has your uncle been mentioning how generous it is that your mom has become her dad's private, on-demand caretaker "for free?" I bet not. "For free." I can't get over that.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 6:56 PM on December 17, 2016 [10 favorites]

If you, your mother or your aunt happen to know any of your grandfather's friends or their children, you could try asking around to see if any of them has used lawyers or other third-party advisors for this kind of asset management. If you can get any recommendations that way, and possibly even get those friends to mention their recommendations to your grandfather, it might be a more persuasive way of getting him to consider the idea, as well as making it more difficult for your uncle to claim that any of you is hand-picking advisors to advance your own interests.
posted by trig at 4:14 AM on December 18, 2016

Yeah, this is happening to me right now with an aunt and we tried to pussyfoot around it for years before stepping in and taking control of the situation. It began with my aunt (father's sister) trying to steal the family home of her deceased uncle, effectively cutting out her own brother in order to achieve these ends - next she 'looked after' my grandfather's money and his debit cards went missing. He is 89 btw.

He also moved in with her for a while, while her and her villainous husband worked on my grandfather and tried to persuade him to hand over his properties solely to them. She tried to break him over the course of many years, under the guise of being helpful, and there was nothingwe could do to persuade him of his daughter's true nature until she turned on me, her niece, and on him after he wouldn't do waht she asked. My aunt was also in control of various legalities we had no knowledge of and went behind our backs a lot.

Now my father is power of attorney and we have no contact with my aunt. It doesn't sound like you care too much about a further kind of familial breakdown (and who would with family like this?). In my case, at least, I have had to grieve for the loss of a former relationship with an aunt I was close to growing up. I know my grandfather has also endured similar feelings, so it is worth maintaining some kind of sensitiviity about how he might be feeling (vulnerable as it is) when talking about these ''vultures' in front of him.

My grandfather had also never made a will - so someone came to see him about this and helped to put his mind at ease. Things are working well now and we now feel more comfortable with knowing that he is healthier and happier with decent people around him, who care about his mental and emotional needs, in the last years of his life. Up until very recently, we felt powerless because like your grandfather, ours was always in flux over what he wanted, until his hand was forced when he could ignore my aunt's aggression and true nature no longer. I wish you all the best and I hope your grandfather gets the support he needs. Aside from anything else, show up for him regularly and frequently - if you don't, this uncle may use his constant presence as leverage for his own ends even if they are not pure (YYMV).
posted by Kat_Dubs at 2:29 PM on December 21, 2016

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