The Moneyist: My brother told our mom it was a mistake to adopt me — and put her in assisted care
I live in Georgia and was adopted at an early age (7) along with my biological brother who was only 2.The family had a biological son (5 years older than me) who has always been very jealous. I have lived in the small town taking care of mom and dad all my life. My older brother has lived in Chicago all his life. He’s addicted to several hardcore drugs he purchased from an ex-stepdaughter. He has been arrested for DUI and the last time it included drug charges that a high-priced lawyer was able to have removed.
‘Her biological son has access to her accounts. He put her in an assisted living facility and had her change her will to remove both of us totally. He has made her believe his life was ruined because she adopted us.’
Mom offered to give me a small amount of money for a down payment for a house with a basement and, if she could live in the basement and take care of her until she dies. Of course, I would. Her biological son has access to her accounts and, when she told him the money had gone to me and she was going to move in with me, he put a stop to it. He put her in an assisted-living facility and had her change her will to remove both of us totally.
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He made her believe his life was ruined because she adopted us. She claims she gave me my share of her estate in the form of a the down payment and said my brother’s share was his schooling, which she paid for. That’s a lie, but there’s nothing else she has helped him with that she could use as a reason for cutting him out of her will too. My mother isn’t rich, but she has done well. When her son gets his hands on the money it will be spent on drugs.
Is there anything both of us can do either now or after she passes? Thank you for your time.
It sounds like your mother has fallen under the influence of her son, or has decided to make you and your younger brother the source of her fears and anxieties. Or both. If she is of sound body and mind, she has every right to renege on her promise to give you the money for a down payment. Even if your mother died and left her house to your older brother in her will, undue influence is notoriously difficult to prove in court. There’s so much psychology and so much that is unknown about these kinds of cases.
How often does this brother visit your mother? What has the staff observed? She may feel dependent on your brother emotionally. And what about her finances? How long will they last? Has your brother been using her accounts?
Visit your mother and talk to her. Talk to the people at her assisted living facility. How often does this brother visit her? What have they observed? She may be well taken care for physically, but she may feel dependent on your brother emotionally and feel scared to challenge him. And what about her finances? How long will they last? Has your brother been using her accounts? Her bank statements, investments and credit card statements should provide clues.
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The fact that you were willing to take care of her is admirable. Many children don’t have that willingness. Some would even like to charge their parents for taking them on regular trips to the doctor’s office or grocery store. But — as hard as it may be to see your n’e’r-do-well brother take control of your mother’s emotional and financial life — it doesn’t mean you are entitled to that money. Is your mother of sound mind? Is she in decline?
You didn’t say whether your brother has been appointed as your mother’s durable power of attorney. If you saw evidence of financial misdeeds, you could ask a civil court to provide an accounting of how your mother’s money is being spent.
You didn’t say whether your brother has been appointed as your mother’s durable power of attorney. If you saw evidence of financial misdeeds, you could ask a civil court to provide an accounting of how your mother’s money is being spent, according to the American Bar Association. You could also take a case in civil court to force him to repay any money withdrawn from your mother’s accounts without her knowledge and revoke his durable power of attorney.
You could ask your mother to set up an irrevocable or revocable living trust with strict instructions on how her money should be spent. But you should approach this with the aim of helping her — not revisiting the subject of the down payment. If your mother dies without a will, you and your brother are legal heirs. If she dies with a will and doesn’t explicitly disinherit you, then you have an excellent case that she simply neglected to mention you.
But your mother’s financial situation and health are the most important. You have a lot of investigation to do. One word of warning: It may be that your mother has chosen this path for herself.
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