Are we liable for my mother-in-law's future expenses?

1 answer | Last updated: Jan 25, 2011
A fellow caregiver asked...

My father in law died last year with very limited assets. My brother in law is "helping" my mother in law with her finances, but she is spending way beyond her means, and both of them refuse to listen to our budgeting suggestions-How do my husband and I protect ourselves from being asked to finance their poor decisions in the near future? We had someone suggest that we sign and present a document that states that we are not happy with how the finances are being handled, and that we WILL NOT be contributing to a future bailout. Does this have any validity?

Expert Answers

Steve Weisman hosts the nationally syndicated radio show A Touch of Grey, heard on more than 50 stations, including WABC in New York City and KRLA in Los Angeles. He is a practicing lawyer specializing in estate planning and is admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court. He's a public speaker and commentator who has appeared on many radio and television shows throughout the country, and he's the legal editor of Talkers magazine, the preeminent trade publication of talk radio. His latest book is The Truth About Avoiding Scams.

Your husband is not responsible financially for his mother's needs although obviously you and your husband have concerns for her welfare.  A document, such as you are suggesting has no legal significance, but also is not needed to insulate yourself from financial liability.  If you and your husband are concerned that her funds are being used inappropriately by your brother-in-law, you should consider filing a petition to be appointed as your mother-in-law's guardian in order to manage her funds in a more efficient manner.