Should I do some estate planning for Mom?

2 answers | Last updated: Oct 13, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My mom is 83 years-old and was diagnosed with Alzheimer's almost 2 years ago. I have a brother and we do not speak unless it is absolutley necessary. We have had a strained releationship for about four years.

I am 41 years old, have some health issues myself (diabetes for one) and have a husband and two daughters. I have been trying, for some time, to care for my mom, my taking her to doctor appointments, doing her errands, taking her food shopping, making sure she eats, takes her meds, etc. We realize she can not live alone and we are currently searching for a new home so I can take my mom in and care for her. We need one floor living. I currently have a small home with steep steps and nowhere to put her.

Financially we are worried we are taking on more than we can handle, but it's something that needs to be done. We have limited income, and struggle, but I think we can make this work if we try hard enough. My brotber has quite a bit of money, a huge house, yet is the cheapest man I know. My mom, since the sale of her home about five years ago has approximately $180,000 in assets.

My brother named himself power of attorney without my knowledge. This was all discovered recently and he invested her money in CD's. He controls her money, and tied up the majority of it so she can not spend it how she wants. He drops by once a month to balance her checkbook and yells at her when there are mistakes. Anyway, my mom has no intention of living with him or his wife because she doesn't like the way she is treated, so basically when it comes to her care, I am it.

I went to my attorney for a different matter and we were discussing my mom's situation. I thought since I am going to be taking care of my mom, as well as taking care of paying her credit card bills, etc, that I should also be named power of attorney. In addition, he suggested that I should do some estate planning for her, in case, at some point in the future she may need more long-term care than I can give.

My husband and I both work full-time, and we cannot afford to change that. We intend to take care of mom as long as we can. I feel a nursing home would make her condition worsen, and I would only consider this a last resort. However, estate planning was suggested in case this is needed. My mom has expressed that she wishes to pass on some of her money to her children/grandchildren and would be upset to think long-term care could wipe out everything. I know for her to qualify for Medicaid there is a five year look-back period. My brother thinks he is this financial wizard and I am surprised he never even gave estate planning a thought. He is estatic to know I am moving my mom in with us and caring for her. Since we don't really speak, I am concerned about what expectations he may have, or problems he will create if we requested any type of assistance from mom to help with care.

I have no idea of what we may encounter, but I am assuming, it is going to cost some extra money for care. When my brother heard that the estate plannning could cost as much as $10,000 (as per the attorney) he flipped and thought it was a waste of money. I have called him twice regarding the matter and he will not return my calls.

First of all, is estate planning a good idea and if so what would they do for us that it could cost as much as he stated? She already has a will, it seems cut and dry, both of us are named co-executor and everything is 50/50. My mom wanted to name me as a power of attorney, and was willing to do the planning. Should I go ahead with this without my brother? I wanted him to be involved out of courtesy, even though we do not get along, our main goal should be what is in the best interest of mom. He even denies that she has Alzheimer's and since he hardly ever sees her, he always says "she's not that bad". I assure you, it is bad. I wish it were different.

Also, is it not right to ask my mom for help with finances? I heard the suggestion to put it in a contract. I don't know how I could ask my mom to do such a thing without offending her. Is this something that should be done because of the hostility between my brother and me? I know lot's of questions...I'm so confused. I love my mom with all my heart yet I am terrified of becoming financially unstable and I hope I can handle the physical and mental toll this will have. I still think this is the right move. Thank you!

Expert Answers

I think your mother does not need more "estate planning" than the will she already has. Indeed, I don't know what the Alzheimer's estate planning your attorney mentioned to you would or could be. I certainly see no reason at all your mother should spend up to $10,000 for some nebulous "estate planning."

What you might need here is some planning concerning Medicare. You mentioned Medicaid, but since your mother is 83 I assume that she is receiving Medicare (for people over 65). The concern here is protecting her assets if she has to go into a long-term care facility. I am not an expert about this concern, though I do know, as you do, that there is a five-year look back period when one transfers one's assets to become eligible for certain Medicare benefits. I suggest that you write again, and ask them to direct your Medicare planning question to's expert on the subject.

Finally, what seems most disturbing here is your brother's control over your mothers assets, though a power of attorney. Your brother can not legally simply name himself to have power of attorney for your mother. Only your mother can do that. Does your brother have a document signed by your mother naming him as her "attorney in fact" or agent, under a power of attorney? If so, does your mother recall signing that document? Was she mentally competent to sign it (if she did)? Further, if there is a power of attorney, is it what is called a "durable" one? A durable power of attorney remains effective even if the principal,here your mother, becomes mentally incapacitated. A normal power of attorney becomes ineffective when the principal becomes incapacitated.

I think you should have sole power of attorney over your mother's assets. If your mother did give a power of attorney to your brother, she can revoke that power of attorney at any time, as long as she is competent. As your brother says that your mother is "not so bad," he would have a difficult time proving that she is now incompetent and therefore unable to legally revoke her power of attorney to him. So I suggest that your mother signa printed statement saying that she revokes any power of attorney she gave to your brother, and then give a new power of attorney to you.

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Community Answers

Mswolfedog answered...

I don't know the legal answer to your questions but I can tell you that your doing the right thing by caring for your Mom. Even with the financial strain it may bring on. You shouldn't feel bad that you need to ask her for some financial help. She knows you love her and want to be there for her. They don't want to go into "a home". They feel abandond and I believe contributes to an earlier demise. It's not uncommon for a family member to want to take financial control but not offer for the physical needs. He was sneaky to self appoint himeslf, probably for his own financial gain. These people usually don't consider the fact that just because they are old that they still have feelings. Nor do they care. You are your Mom's Angel for what you are doing and she know's this. It comes from the heart. Do what you have to do to give her the best care you can. It's better than any home can give her because it comes from you with love. There's no love from "a home" They're a business and it's all about money. I lost my Mom this past October 20th after a four year battle with Ovarian Cancer. She was 81 years old. I left behind everything I had to come to her home and care for her and I have no regrets. I lost nearly everyting I had when my Husband died suddenly, mainly our home of 23 years. I had to start all over again with nothing. I'm about to do that again and I'm 59 years old. But it was worth it. I got to spend her last 31/2 years with her, one on one as I had NO offers of help from my family until the end. My Brother showed concern only for her money and how much he was going to get. My sister came here from Texas the last three months to help me and I am most grateful for this. My Mom's wish was that she die at home and didn't want to be alone. She got both. I was holding her hand when she passed. Now I have all those memories to cherish. And no guilt that I could have done more. At the end she knew who loved her and who loved her money. I miss my Mom, my dear sweet Mom. So cherish this time with her, be patient with her, tell her how much you love her. Try to secure her money to ease the hardship of her care But don't let money be a factor in the care she needs from you; your love.