How can I protect my grandfather's assets?

5 answers | Last updated: Feb 25, 2015
Alajobe asked...

My grandfather has been a feared patriarch in my family for ever since I can remember. He is 93 stubborn, paranoid and in way too much control of his and my grandmother's lives. He still lives in his own home with my grandmother who is bed ridden and has a 24/7 caregiver.

He has complete control over his assets, and goes about living as if he was 40 years old. You might think this is great but it isn't, he has dementia, is throwing his money away and causes my father and uncle an extraordinary amount of distress.

To top it all off he has loaned this random guy 100K on a hand shake for some crazy project. I spoke to my dad last night and now it seems like this guy is trying to get control of my grandfathers assets via a POA. The caregiver found a contract in his house and notified my father.

My grandfather is throwing his money away. I'd like to know what I can do to help my father and uncle gain control of my grandfather's assets. He will not do it willingly as he is paranoid. There is absolutely no way that anyone can convince him that it is the right thing to do. He is not thinking logically and some sort of action needs to be done now before he loses his assets. I'd like to do 2 things:

  1. Figure out how to legally get control of is assets.

  2. Figure out how to stop this scam artist from taking advantage of my grandfather and to see if I can get some legal docs set up for these previous loan transactions.

Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

Any advice you get or take must be tempered with a dose of reality: Short of getting your grandfather a personality transplant, there may be nothing you can do to change his wily and unpredictable ways. After all, he’s had them for 93 years.

And I do sympathize. Characters like your grandfather are generally more entertaining when they’re in a move—or someone else’s family.

First concern first: getting control of his assets. A bit of sobering news here, too: Unless your grandfather can be shown to be legally incompetent to control his assets, he retains the legal right to do whatever he wants with his property. If you are concerned about his mental acuity, though, and feel that dementia is clouding his ability to make meaningful decisions, there are a couple legal documents you might consider putting in place.
The first, a power of attorney for finances, would allow another person to control and manage your grandfather’s assets in his own best interests. It doesn’t sound as if that may be possible in your situation, however, since it would require your grandfather to agree to the situation and to choose a person as his agent.

The other possibility is more drastic: Secure a legal guardianship or conservatorship for your grandfather. A conservatorship, also called an adult guardianship, gives a person the legal right to make necessary decisions on behalf of another adult who cannot live independently. It would allow the person appointed to oversee or personally be responsible for the other’s care, custody, and control.

The person seeking to be appointed conservator will have to explain to the local probate court why he or she is the best person for the job. And surviving family members will be notified about the procedure and may contest it. It will be up to the court to decide whether the conservatorship is the best route to pursue.

Whether you will need to hire an attorney for help with this process depends on the set-up of your local probate court; they vary wildly. Courts in some places have established some very good self-help centers that provide necessary forms and instructions for how to complete and file them. Find out by doing a search of your city or county and the words "conservatorship" or "guardianship."

Whatever happens with these legal controls on your grandfather’s property, you should check out action against that scam artist at once. Contact the local Adult Protective Services office; most have staffers or hotline operators who will review your concerns confidentially and either intercede or refer you to additional targeted local resources for help.

Community Answers

The caregiver's voice answered...

Alajobe, I had a similar experience with my father and brother (who took assets on "loan").

All I can advise is if you are concerned enough and it is worth your while spend the time to build a relationship with your grandfather. This has advantages-- * you will spend time with him before he's gone and only in your memory * you will ensure he has enough assets to care for your grandmother who needs 24/7 care * you will ensure a "con" doesn't get your grandfather's assets

Given the benefits, you need to determine if you or a family member can (want to) spend time patiently (re)building a relationship with him and building trust.

It took me three years after my mother died and my father started showing signs of dementia. After that, as my career slowly took a detour on the road of caregiving, it took many visits to his home 2,000 miles away. Eventually, he felt comfortable with how I was helping him. My husband and I eventually moved him into our home in California.

Although it affected my income, family is family, and I learned a lot about myself--priceless.

A fellow caregiver answered...

First of all you may need to find out if your grandfather ever made a trust. If he did then possibly within that trust is has a Power of Attorney already set up. I can tell you that no doctor wants to say that a person is incompetent, it is almost impossible. They walk in and speak to the person with dementia for five minutes and if they respond then they look at you, like you are crazy and say the person is fine. This has driven me crazy. It's like no one wants to be the "bad guy" when you are trying to save your loved one from losing everything. You will have to get the help of an attorney most likely and seek guardianship or conservatorship. YOU MUST GET THIS CON GUY STOPPED IMMEDIATELY, DO NOT REST UNTIL YOU HANDLE THIS MATTER. If your grandfather signs any papers for this guy, you will have lost everything and your grandparents could be left sitting there with nothing.
Bad news is the "blustering" of your grandfather will only get worse with the dementia. My lovely sweet Mother can now drive you nuts with her anger outbursts. Best of luck in all that you are facing.

A fellow caregiver answered...

When I took my mother to her doctor, I told the scheduler at the office that she needs to be evaluated for dementia. The doctors have a question and answer test they do verbally with them, such as what city do you live in. The survey has a score that they tally to decide how much memory impairment they have. I asked the doctor to put this diagnosis on a letter/prescription to help with getting assistance or admission into a home.

Clubm5nj answered...

I can tell you one thing. My siblings and I are in the middle of this same sort of scenario. My mom is 79 and has been diagnosed with early Dementia. We have several doctors from two states that have written letters stating she can not live alone and is not capable of handling her own financial affairs. Please note that there is a 65 year old boyfriend/predator in the picture!

Get Dr. letters and take as much evidence as you can to the court where your loved one lives. Scoop up evidence of cash or wire transfers, checks written to predators etc. Go to court and ask the judge for an immediate guardianship and or conservatorship. This way, you will be able to go to the banks and add your name to accounts for bill paying or to simply move it to a account where it will be protected and designated for your loved one.

My moms boyfriend was all in to her business. He knew passwords on EVERYTHING, social security number etc.. Good luck! I'm just a few steps ahead but never a dull moment!