How do I get my realitives to stop spending my aunt's money?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 27, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

Hi, My great aunt has been suffering from alzheimer's for several years. It is pretty advanced..she doesn't know who we are anymore, etc. I just found out that her home is now in her nieces name. Her will has been changed and her niece has access to her bank accounts. My great aunt also bought a new jeep for a cousin for Christmas. I can't believe my own relatives are taking my aunts money but I'm not sure where to go and what to do. I don't have money for an attorney. Please help.

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.

You are facing a very difficult situation. FIrst, it is not even certain that you have the right to complain (legally, that is) about this story, since you may not be a legal "heir" to your great-aunt. Second, short of hiring an attorney and filing a lawsuit, it may be difficult for you to find out what really happened, let alone persuade a judge to take action to remedy this problem. And third, depending on where you live, it may be difficult to get the attention of a public agency in this sort of family matter.

That said, there are a few things you could try. You might want to try to have a direct conversation with your cousins, perhaps with the help of another sympathetic relative, to find out what happened and to learn what they have to say about what happened. There might be another aunt or uncle who is respected in the family, and perhaps you can turn to that person for guidance. You also should contact the local bar association in your town, as most associations have a panel of volunteer attorneys who will provide limited help in this sort of situation. Lastly, you could file a complaint with the local Adult Protective Services, as they may be willing to investigate the situation and take appropriate action. No guarantees for any of these efforts, but that is where we would suggest you start. Good luck!