One of the benefits of practicing estate and trust litigation in Texas for nigh-on 4 decades is that few things surprise me anymore. In fact, some fact patterns occur so often that it is not unusual for me to have a sense of déjà vu during a new case consultation.
Here are three of the more common situations that can mess up even the best-laid plans.
- The Manipulative Adult Child. This is that one child who never leaves empty-handed after a visit with the parents, who still taps the Mom and Dad Bank for basic living expenses, whose conversation with the folks always contains a heavy dose of disparagement of their friends and other family members, who pressures the parents to be named as their primary financial agent despite having a felony conviction for theft, who calls Adult Protective Services with bogus reports of exploitation by other family members, who shows up without notice to take the parents to meet with “that nice young attorney” so they can sign new estate planning documents they did not request, who helps the parents manage their on-line investment accounts and then magically appears as the new designated beneficiary, or who moves in with the parents ostensibly to “help” and then stays to isolate, threaten, and physically abuse them.
- The Unpleasant Senior. Some people age well; some people age poorly. The Unpleasant Senior ages poorly. This is the person who smokes while on an oxygen tank, who uses money and threats of disinheritance to control adult children and grandchildren, who refuses to take prescribed medication, who stops maintaining personal hygiene or a safe living space and rebuffs help, who lurches from crisis to crisis and expects to be rescued each time, who engages in emotional manipulation, who refuses to sign basic estate planning documents like powers of attorney and a will, who makes no effort to organize financial or medical information, who continues to drive although vision and reaction times are significantly impaired, who engages in behavior that makes it impossible to find placement in an assisted living center or nursing home, who takes advantage of a disabled spouse, who is violent, or who ignores warnings about scammers and con men and then loses his or her entire life savings.
- The Interloper. The Interloper is a non-family member who takes unfair advantage of a senior, often incapacitated. The Interloper can be found in all guises and all walks of life. Some of the more common types are the caregiver who marries the senior in secret, the financial advisor who convinces the senior to invest in a pyramid scheme, the power of attorney agent who steals money and assets from the senior, the friend who moves in with and then isolates the senior, the fellow church member or pastor who gulls money out of the senior, the repairman who takes money from the senior and then disappears without completing the job, and, of course, the random caller who tell the senior a scam story to get money and gift cards.
The Manipulative Adult Child, Unpleasant Senior and Interloper show up on a disconcertingly consistent basis. Like I said, I am seldom surprised to see them.
Virginia Hammerle is an attorney with Hammerle Finley Law Firm whose practice includes probate law, estate planning and contested litigation. To receive her newsletter contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.