How can I protect my grandfather's assets?

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 Answer

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.