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Old 08-31-07, 04:45 PM   #1
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Another legal question for Foo

Ok...there are bigger issues here than the one I will ask (you will probably see what I mean), but for now, we'll leave it at this question.

My grandfather died on New Year's Eve (some of you probably remember). My G-Ma is doing relatively well still, although her alzheimers shows itself more and more each day.

My brother has been helping my grandparents more than ANYBODY in the family for at least a few YEARS. Keeps up with their meds makes sure they take them right, drives them around when they need it, etc.... He's a good guy, my bro.

Well, I remember once asking my G-ma if she's "taken care of Matt" in the will. She said yes, although after talking to my brother lately, he mentioned in passing that the will now leaves EVERYTHING to her two remaining sons (our uncles). Frankly, I don't trust either one of them.

My brother has been buying the land from my grandparents for some time. He just pays them instead of bank, I believe. I'm not sure how they have it worked out exactly, but knowing my grandparents, its probably all unofficial. They probably just planned to sign the deed over when he paid it or something, nothing more.

Well, if my g-ma dies before he pays off (and almost surely she will), what will happen? I plan to talk to my g-ma and get her to change the will, but right now one of her sons is her "power of attorney". I hope that if she tells him she wants to leave Matt's land to him, he'll help her change the will (but I'm not betting my life on it).

So if he doesn't help her change the will, what will happen to Matt? Will whatever contract they have still hold (assuming they even have it written anywhere)?

I could get more info from my brother, but I know he does it out of love for grandparents and is not "expecting" to be rewarded. But I hate to see him getting screwed by uncles when he's done more for the grandparents they have for their own parents.

Any thoughts on what will happen? Can uncles change contract (if there is any)? If its all under the table can they void the contract altogether (nixing all money he's paid for last 10 years)? Can my g-ma do anything legal herself right now (being she's diagnosed with alzheimers and uncle#1 is power of attorney)?
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Old 08-31-07, 04:59 PM   #2
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I'm not a lawyer, nor do i play one on TV. Also, I did not stay at a holiday inn express recently.

But I think you get grandma and Unc#1 to formalize the agreement ASAP.

Here are some other ideas:
-Can you contest the power of attorney?
-Are agreements with your grandmother not considered binding right now? Going around the uncle sounds like a recipe for trouble, but considering what your brother has to lose...

The way it's shaping up now, uncle #1 seems to have all the cards.
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Old 08-31-07, 05:41 PM   #3
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KT - THis is way too big and way too complicated to get anything even remotely like an intelligent answer on the 'Net. I deal with issues like this on a fairly regular basis, and I have some ideas about what I would want to follow up on under California law, but there really isn't enough info here to even begin to make real sense of it. Particularly critical is exactly how good or bad your grandma's mental condition is now, how much is has changed in the recent past, and howfast it's changing. THis is certainly not the only important variable (what promises your grandma or grandpa made to your brother immediately leaps to mind) but it is a big one, probably the single biggest.

If you are serious about this, you need to talk to a local pro, and soon. Contact the bar association for the county or state where your grandma/brother are and ask about their lawyer referral program. An estate planning lawyer would be good, a probate/trust litigation atty is probably even better for your current purposes. The planning types tend to think less in terms of what the ultimate fight will look like and what will influence the judge than do the litigation types. If you are right about your uncles, you need to be thinking about how best to set up the fight - or if there is one that can be set up - not just about the intellectual exercise of what documents say what. This does not mean that you or your brother have to choose now to fight to the bitter end. But I can all but guarantee that, if this comes down to a legal battle, you or your brother will not be able to negotiate a reasonable settlement unless your uncles are convinced that you are ready, willing and able to fight this all the way through. The key is communicating that to the uncles - even if it's a bluff.

At the risk of sounding crass, there is another factor that absolutely has to be considered: how much is your grandma's estate worth? As awful as it sounds, unless it is worth a fair piece of coin, it may not be economically viable to fight over it. You have to be prepared at some point to make an honest assessment of whether the ultimate prize prize is worth the cost of the fight, including factoring in the possibility of coming away with nothing but attorney bills. There is no magic formula to determine that, and there are times where the emotional value of a case makes it worth fighting out even of the economics would appear to say otherwise. But those cases are not all that common. Also, do not ever go into a legal battle expecting vindication or emotional closure or anything like that. The civil justice system is reasonably decent at reallocating money and property, but it was never intended to make people feel better. It's like trying to do surgery with a chain saw - simply the wrong tool for the job.

If I can provide additional info or guidance, feel free to PM me, but this is not one where Foo is going to be much use to you. Hard to believe, I know, but it's true.
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Old 08-31-07, 05:50 PM   #4
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Best Foo advice I've seen in a LO-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-ONG time! No kiddin, KT and I agree here so completely!
Quote:
Originally Posted by bikingshearer View Post
KT - THis is way too big and way too complicated to get anything even remotely like an intelligent answer on the 'Net. I deal with issues like this on a fairly regular basis, and I have some ideas about what I would want to follow up on under California law, but there really isn't enough info here to even begin to make real sense of it. Particularly critical is exactly how good or bad your grandma's mental condition is now, how much is has changed in the recent past, and howfast it's changing. THis is certainly not the only important variable (what promises your grandma or grandpa made to your brother immediately leaps to mind) but it is a big one, probably the single biggest.

If you are serious about this, you need to talk to a local pro, and soon. Contact the bar association for the county or state where your grandma/brother are and ask about their lawyer referral program. An estate planning lawyer would be good, a probate/trust litigation atty is probably even better for your current purposes. The planning types tend to think less in terms of what the ultimate fight will look like and what will influence the judge than do the litigation types. If you are right about your uncles, you need to be thinking about how best to set up the fight - or if there is one that can be set up - not just about the intellectual exercise of what documents say what. This does not mean that you or your brother have to choose now to fight to the bitter end. But I can all but guarantee that, if this comes down to a legal battle, you or your brother will not be able to negotiate a reasonable settlement unless your uncles are convinced that you are ready, willing and able to fight this all the way through. The key is communicating that to the uncles - even if it's a bluff.

At the risk of sounding crass, there is another factor that absolutely has to be considered: how much is your grandma's estate worth? As awful as it sounds, unless it is worth a fair piece of coin, it may not be economically viable to fight over it. You have to be prepared at some point to make an honest assessment of whether the ultimate prize prize is worth the cost of the fight, including factoring in the possibility of coming away with nothing but attorney bills. There is no magic formula to determine that, and there are times where the emotional value of a case makes it worth fighting out even of the economics would appear to say otherwise. But those cases are not all that common. Also, do not ever go into a legal battle expecting vindication or emotional closure or anything like that. The civil justice system is reasonably decent at reallocating money and property, but it was never intended to make people feel better. It's like trying to do surgery with a chain saw - simply the wrong tool for the job.

If I can provide additional info or guidance, feel free to PM me, but this is not one where Foo is going to be much use to you. Hard to believe, I know, but it's true.
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Old 08-31-07, 09:48 PM   #5
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Thanks for info.

First of all, I hope it doesn't come to a fight. I *want* to give uncles benefit of doubt and think they will want to carry out my g-ma's wishes, but my "heart" tells me it won't happen. My uncle has already made comments (I've heard from other family members) that "if Matt wants that land, he will pay market value for it".

I do plan to talk to my g-ma and try to get her to make her wishes known. It needs to happen now while she still does have most mental capacity. She's fine most of the time, just very forgetful. She's starting to get to the stage now where she's talking about really old events (like stuff 40 and 50 years ago) as if they happened recently.

Anyway, her estate is really not worth much and I'm not trying to contest the estate itself. I think they are her sons and deserve it as heirs. However, my bro has helped them immensely and since he is buying his land from them (just a few acres I think), I would like to see him at least get the land he's been buying left to him. It seems quite fair to me.

It is not worth a long and expensive court battle because the estate worth is really just the land (9 or 10 acres I think) and I only want Matt's portion to go to him (maybe 2 or 3 acres). I'm not talking about anything other than that.

Just a jumbled mess. Other than g-ma and brother, I could easily go 10 years between family visits to the rest of them.
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Old 08-31-07, 09:52 PM   #6
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My sister is an attorney who specializes in elder law and related issues and has written a number of handbooks on this subject. Clearly there may be some things that vary from state to state, but if you'd like some general info, PM me.
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Old 08-31-07, 11:36 PM   #7
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I can't address the powers of attorney, uncles changing the contracts or any of that stuff, but I do have first hand experience along these lines, albeit in Maine, so the laws might be different where this property is located.

Bottom line, if there is no deed recorded (signed doesn't matter, must be recorded) then the property is still your grandmother's and falls into her estate for probate according to her will.

If your brother has good records and can prove the payments, maybe a lawyer could show there was a contract and he was entitled to the property. I defer back to shearer for this.
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Old 09-01-07, 01:48 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KingTermite View Post
Ok...there are bigger issues here than the one I will ask (you will probably see what I mean), but for now, we'll leave it at this question.

My grandfather died on New Year's Eve (some of you probably remember). My G-Ma is doing relatively well still, although her alzheimers shows itself more and more each day.

My brother has been helping my grandparents more than ANYBODY in the family for at least a few YEARS. Keeps up with their meds makes sure they take them right, drives them around when they need it, etc.... He's a good guy, my bro.

Well, I remember once asking my G-ma if she's "taken care of Matt" in the will. She said yes, although after talking to my brother lately, he mentioned in passing that the will now leaves EVERYTHING to her two remaining sons (our uncles). Frankly, I don't trust either one of them.

My brother has been buying the land from my grandparents for some time. He just pays them instead of bank, I believe. I'm not sure how they have it worked out exactly, but knowing my grandparents, its probably all unofficial. They probably just planned to sign the deed over when he paid it or something, nothing more.

Well, if my g-ma dies before he pays off (and almost surely she will), what will happen? I plan to talk to my g-ma and get her to change the will, but right now one of her sons is her "power of attorney". I hope that if she tells him she wants to leave Matt's land to him, he'll help her change the will (but I'm not betting my life on it).

So if he doesn't help her change the will, what will happen to Matt? Will whatever contract they have still hold (assuming they even have it written anywhere)?

I could get more info from my brother, but I know he does it out of love for grandparents and is not "expecting" to be rewarded. But I hate to see him getting screwed by uncles when he's done more for the grandparents they have for their own parents.

Any thoughts on what will happen? Can uncles change contract (if there is any)? If its all under the table can they void the contract altogether (nixing all money he's paid for last 10 years)? Can my g-ma do anything legal herself right now (being she's diagnosed with alzheimers and uncle#1 is power of attorney)?
I am not a lawyer and I recommend that you and your brother go see one, preferable specailising in estate planning. I also live on the other side the world with a different judical system. Saying that I have a couple of comments.
- If your brother is the legal owner of the land he is buying then the asset your grandmother owns is a loan and not the land.
- If there is a properly written & signed contract drawn up when he commenced paying for the land, then I imagine that it would be enforcable in law.
- If there is no written contract or legal transfer of the land then your brother may have to pay the market price less the amount he has paid over the last ten years, provided he has kept accurate records. The money he has paid is either a loan to your grandparents or a deposit on the land and such would be a liability of your Grandmothers estate.

I hope that you and your brother can sort things out peacefully with your uncles and am sorry for your troubles.
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Old 09-01-07, 01:47 PM   #9
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I am in total agreement on this not being the best place to seek advice. The only thng useful I have to say is that I encourage you to spend as much time with your Grandma now. I lost mine to Alzheimers last week. Her health had declined steadily over the last couple of years, and she had been pretty much noncommunicative for at least a year. My uncle was legally responsible for her, and arranged for her to be close to me because I was visiting her more than anyone else. I was the only one with her when she passed away. At her funeral, one of my younger cousins expressed his deep regrets that he had not known her better than he did, and that he hadn't visited her for quite a long time. I'm the only one of the grandkids that never has to face that regret, with the possible exception of my sister.

Spend time with Grandma now, every chance you get, even when it becomes very difficult to do.
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Old 09-01-07, 02:11 PM   #10
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KT, I am a lawyer and I completely agree with Bikingshearer on this one. There are a lot of angles to a situation like this--not the least of which are several things affecting the validity of any contract between your grandparents and your brother. Get some competent professional advice on this.
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