My mom's siblings are acusing her or spending too much of grandma's money, what should we do?

1 answer | Last updated: Oct 03, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

Heres the story for 3 years my mother lived with my grandma after my grandfather passed away my mom took care of and by this I mean run to the bank pay bills ect for my grandmother. Now during this time my grandma gave out loans to various grandchildren,she also financially helped support my mom. Now she has passed she passed quickly and unexpectedly. She was in total control of her accounts till she passed. Well now the other siblings are saying my mom spent to much of grandmas money and if she doesn't sign off on her inheritance to them they are gonna bring elderly abuse charges against her what should we do


Expert Answers

Judy and Fred co-mediate family property and financial conflicts, and each work individually as mediators as well. Judy Barber, a mediator and family business consultant, assists clients in resolving overlapping family and money conflicts so they are better able to make sound estate planning decisions. Frederick Hertz is an attorney and mediator who specializes in resolving co-ownership matters involving families, siblings, spouses, cohabitants and domestic partners.

First, you want to look objectively at the standards for elder abuse, to understand how an accusation like this would be evaluated by a court. Most likely your mother's siblings would have to prove the accusation that your mother abused your grandmother . Technically y"“ and your mother would not have to "prove" that she did not take advantage of her, but it would certainly help if you or she could explain what happened to rebut any accusations. Such disputes are not easily resolved, and the judge hearing your case may have a wide range of unpredictable reactions to hearing each side's story. Depending on how the procedures are structured in your local court, it's quite possible that the final settlement of the inheritance would not take place until these issues are resolved.

Second, the term elder abuse sounds scary, but it needs to be "upacked" in order to be fully understood. It is a broad description that encompasses many aspects of alleged mistreatment against frail, disabled and vulnerable elderly people. There are numerous categories of abuse - including but not limited to undue influence or emotional, psychological, or legal manipulation.

Third, what really matters here is that the siblings have a perception that your mother spent too much of your grandmother's money. There seems to be hard feelings about your mother's behavior, and those feelings need to be addressed. We suggest your mother and her siblings seek an elder care counselor to explore the origins of the distrust that surfaced after your grandmother died. A discussion has the potential to clear up misunderstandings. The meeting will also provide an opportunity for the siblings to be specific about what actions your mother took that influenced your grandmother's decision regarding payment to her or show how your mother made financial transactions on her own that benefitted her.

To the extent possible, we suggest that your mother offer her siblings an accounting of what she bought and the purpose of the money spent during the three years she lived with your grandmother. What expenditures from your grandmother's bank accounts, credit cards and cash went directly for her care and benefit? What of your grandmother's money went to your mother? Document when, how and for what purpose did your grandmother transfer money to your mother or cover your mother's personal expenses. Hopefully there will be a paper or online trail of banking, credit card statements and cash receipts that show that these decisions were made by your grandmother or for her benefit. If this seems overwhelming to your mother and others in the family, a bookkeeper could help her reproduce the financial history. Making this effort will demonstrate that she is not belittling the concerns of the relatives.

Then, once the facts are aired and the feelings are discussed, it should be possible to reach some kind of consensus of the historical facts "“ and hopefully there will be enough enlightenment on both sides to clear the air. And if this effort fails to resolve the matter, your mom will have all the information gathered (and will know the basis of the complaints against her) that she will need to talk with an attorney about how to move forward in the legal process.

Finally, here's a great resource for understanding what is meant by undue influence: http://www.courts.ca.gov/xbcr/cc/UndueInfluence.pdf.