The Moneyologist: My sister is pushing our elderly mother to sell her $2 million home

Dear Moneyologist,

My mother is being pressured by my sister to sell her $ 2 million house to raise $ 50,000 that she owes my sister. There is a remaining mortgage of approximately $ 200,000. It’s a beach property in Los Angeles originally purchased by my dad who passed many years ago. Although my mom is elderly I doubt she will be deemed incompetent by traditional medical definition. She is frail and scared.

My mom is not allowed by my sister to have friends over or grandkids visit. The beach house is her primary residence. Everyone is telling my mom how ridiculous it would be to sell the house and, if she sold it, she would have nowhere to go.

My mom is not allowed by my sister to have friends over or grandkids visit. Everyone is telling my mom how ridiculous it would be to sell the house and, if she sold it, she would have nowhere to go.

Roberta in California

I could rent the house out for $ 7,000 per month and within a year she could be back in her beloved home. I would put her up for the interim, but it’s like talking to a wall because my sister is so controlling. My mom is scared of her, so much so that she asks permission to do almost everything.

There is a will where my sister and I are respectively left half of my mother’s estate. My mother has no power of attorney. I want to see if there’s some sort of injunction I can file to delay the house being sold long enough for me to get my sister the $ 50,000. I could do that by renting the house.

My sister makes a good living, does not need the money to survive, but her greed is blinding so much so that she is willing to unduly influence my mom into making a bad financial move. Even our tax attorney fired my sister as a client and called her the devil’s spawn.

Can you please advise if I can stop or at least force a delay of moving forward on her selling the home? It has not been listed yet, but that is imminent.

Roberta in California

Dear Roberta,

Selling or even re-financing your mother’s family home should be a last resort.

Talk to your mother privately, an attorney and, perhaps, another accountant. (That “spawn of the devil” remark is not becoming of an accountancy (or any) profession.) Isolating a family member from the rest of the family is one of the first signs of abuse, as are situations where one relative or friend insists on always being present around the elderly relative. I’ve had more letters than I can count from people who are worried about their parents and those who exercise undue influence. This woman’s sister spirited their mother to a nursing home.

Isolating a family member from the rest of the family is one of the first signs of abuse, as are situations where one relative or friend insists on always being present around that relative.

The Moneyologist

Elder abuse, and it’s too early to say whether that’s the case here, is an epidemic. Older Americans lose around $ 3 billion per year due to being scammed, a recent report by the AARP Public Policy Institute found, and even more goes unreported.

You could file a petition to become power of attorney for your mother or, if your mother’s mental health worsens, file a petition for conservatorship or guardianship. You can also consult the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys or the National Association of Estate Planners & Councils. It’s important that your mother is not bullied by your sister but by taking the right legal steps, asking your mother what she would like to do and even suggesting yourself as power of attorney, you can prevent your sister from bullying you.

Finding a way through this financial drama will be a weight off your shoulders and, more importantly, it will be a weight off your mother’s shoulders, too.

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