Should Mom pay for part of her living expenses?

A fellow caregiver asked...

My mom has been living with me for two years now and she receives a pension and a Social Security check. I need some help financially to keep her living here. Can she pay some of the monthly bills, or does it have to be a percentage of them? (ex: my husband, myself and Mom are the adults in the house.) Would it have to be a third of the bill or can she pay some of the bills entirely and I would pay the others entirely? What is best?

Expert Answer

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.

It is absolutely fine for your mother to pay rent for the right to live in your home. In instances such as this it is simpler to come up with a regular monthly amount that she pays rather than have the amount change from month to month with her paying a portion of the living expenses. It would also make sense to have a tenancy agreement whereby she would be a tenant at will on a monthly basis or a tenant through a lease for a period of a year or more. You should talk with a lawyer to have such an agreement drawn up. You also may wish to discuss the income tax ramifications of having your mother pay you to live there. I know this may sound like it is making it more complicated than it is worth, but it is always better to comply with the law now rather than face problems for not complying with the law later.