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When family members make a move on an elder’s resources

Q: We arrived home from the July 4 weekend to find a For Sale sign on our next-door neighbor’s lawn. We knew something was amiss. The owner is a widower in his 80s. His youngest son has power of attorney and handles all the scheduling for caregiving visits. Unfortunately, the youngest son lives out of state. The two older sons live in the Bay Area. We have known the family for 35 years. We are the eyes and ears for the youngest son, who handles his father’s affairs.

When we called the number on the sign on the lawn, the listing real estate agent said she was working for the co-trustees. An alarming response, at best. I asked who the co-trustees are and she replied, “The older children.”

The next phone call was to the youngest son. He was speechless. He acknowledged that the two older sons had been trying to infiltrate their parent’s trust for years. It appears they were successful.

The open house is this weekend. Since homes still sell fast due to our elementary school, the property could be under contract by Monday. That is a fact. Selling under pretenses could harm the estate and jeopardize the father’s retirement savings with legal fees.

I suggested the youngest son call the listing real estate agent’s agency office and speak with the sales manager. They need to stop the open house. What do other families in this situation do to prevent bleeding of the elder’s resources through a home sale?

A: The older sons probably “helped” the father amend his trust, naming them co-trustees, unbeknownst to others. Often it is by claiming the older adult has lost capacity. Yet they still have the older adult who supposedly lost capacity sign the amended trust documents. It’s a common elder abuse tactic. This is an identifiable contradiction for those who should scrutinize the trust documents. The list includes the listing broker, escrow and title officers, and the behind-the-scenes title insurance underwriter.

The older sons also probably avoided the law firm that generated your neighbor’s original trust. (Also a common tactic.)

The attorney who created the trust might be an estate planning attorney. The youngest son needs an elder law attorney. An elder law attorney is well trained and equally experienced in later-life living options, capacity issues and all types of elder abuse. Full stop. There’s an ongoing American tsunami of family members and caregivers preying on older adults. We need waves of elder law attorneys to combat these stealthy predators.

Questions, concerns or inquiries? Realtor Pat Kapowich is a Certified Real Estate Brokerage Manager and career-long consumer protection advocate. His hometown of Sunnyvale, California, is where he is based. Office Landline: 408-245-7700, [email protected] Broker# 00979413



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