Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review Nov. 15, 2004 /2 Kislev, 5765

Jan L. Warner & Jan Collins

JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Son's sins infect Mom's care | Q: My widowed mother is 85. Her health has been pretty good, which is a blessing. The curse is my 62-year-old brother, whom she has "supported" since he was in his 30s. He began to live with her after four failed marriages and too many children for me to count. A house that she gave him just three years ago was repossessed after he ran up mortgages and credit cards and refused to pay them. I don't think he has worked more than a year straight his entire life, and is not eligible for Social Security. Mom recently bailed him out of jail for non-support. One of his ex-wives tried to sue my mother for child support, and my brother had Mom sign some kind of paper that my sister and I think guarantees payments of support or something for him.

He is a parasite, but he is also the baby in the family, and Mom won't listen to my sister and me. She did tell me that she had gone through more than $100,000 in the past two years bailing him out — plus the $75,000 house she gave him. Still, she won't put him out on the curb where he belongs. And she tells me that if she gives him her house, it will be protected for her. What happens to Mom if she gets sick and can't pay for her own care? How can we stop our brother from talking Mom into giving him her house — worth nearly $150,000? I am ready to report him to Social Services if that will help.

A: While it may not make you feel any better, the situation you outline is not all that unusual in today's society. That said, if your mother has mental capacity (and it appears she does), she can do what she likes with her assets and funds. While there may well be some undue influence, financial exploitation and manipulation, we don't know if it rises to the level required for Adult Protective Services to become involved. And, even if APS becomes involved, we don't know if the investigation will net the results you seek.

The obviously ignored, but far larger, problem is what will happen if your mother breaks a hip or becomes chronically ill and requires ongoing care. Generally, the expenses for assisted living are paid individually, and your mother may have exhausted the funds with which to pay for this care.

Donate to JWR

If, however, your mother requires nursing home care during the next three years, an even bigger crisis could be on the horizon. While we don't know her income or other assets, the gifts she has made to and on behalf of your brother over the past three years — at least $100,000 plus the $75,000 house — will probably disqualify her from receiving Medicaid benefits for a long time. And continued gifting will only perpetuate the disqualification period. In other words, she will be required to pay for the cost of nursing home care from her already picked pockets, or from the sale of her home if she does not have other resources. At a burn rate of between $5,000 and $8,000 per month, she may find herself in deep trouble and without care.

As far as your mother's house is concerned, for Medicaid purposes it is not a countable resource, meaning that assuming she otherwise meets the three-pronged Medicaid test for assets, income and medical condition, her house will not count. When she talks about "protecting" the house by transferring it to your brother, she has probably misunderstood the rules that allow a residence to be transferred without penalty to certain exempt classes of recipients, including 1) a blind or disabled child, or 2) a child who has lived in the house with an ill parent for at least two years before institutionalization and has provided care that allowed the parent to avoid being placed in a nursing home.

Clearly, since your brother does not fall within either of these categories, a transfer of the otherwise exempt home will cause not only a longer period of Medicaid disqualification, but also will expose the property to your brother's debts and claims by his former wives and children for child support.

If someone does not stop the train here, your mother will clearly run out of track and may well lose her home. We suggest that someone outside the family that your mother trusts explain to her the facts of life. Otherwise, we don't know if a solution to this insidious problem exists.

Find this column helpful? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JAN L. WARNER received his A.B. and J.D. degrees from the University of South Carolina and earned a Master of Legal Letters (L.L.M.) in Taxation from the Emory University School of Law in Atlanta, Georgia. He is a frequent lecturer at legal education and public information programs throughout the United States. His articles have been published in national and state legal publications. Jan Collins began co-authoring Flying SoloŽ in 1989. She has more than 27 years of experience as a journalist, writer, and editor. To comment or ask a question, please click here.


The sudden pitfalls of an immediate annuity
Furious at home's poor care of Mom
How the government bilks seniors
Solid answers about osteoporosis
The taxing affair of gift giving
Searching for a facility that offers independence
Does anesthesia enfeeble the elderly?
Warning about 'Do Not Resuscitate' (DNR)
Why is Mom such a hoarder?; Medicaid law may leave child homeless
Brother's reaction to Mom's death angers siblings
Unwisely reducing drug dosages
Why is my sick husband frantic at sundown?
Are Dad's living expenses tax-deductible?
Recovering confidence after a fall
How do I plan my estate?
My parents need a caring lawyer
Can banks reject powers of attorney?
Tech innovations help parents remain home
Looking back for a healthy future
Alzheimer's-stricken Mom is destroying marriage
A cautionary tale of quick-fix mortgages
Why can dad's new wife control his life?
Sister's early death sparks family estate war
Poor financial planning leaves Dad cash-strapped
How do I protect my parents from falling?

Bad 'Will' makes seniors prey
Bankrupt seniors now the debt generation
How can we help ease Dad's depression?
Compensating sister for Mom's care; purchasing life insurance policies from terminally ill individuals
My aunt profited from grandpa's weak will; foreclosing against senior is best
Pay employer taxes for caregivers?
Help Mom organize her finances
Where can seniors get the best health info?
How do we stop our mooching daughter?
Can you stop a double-dealing lawyer?; caregiver red flags
How the government bilks seniors
Dad's new wife took the inheritance
Parents' trustee choice a hidden blessing
Finding the money for home care
Elderly mom is sweet on a hunky aide
'Ziva' gets the scoop on nation's nursing homes
Care decisions for 'elder orphans'
Seeking help for dementia victims
Read admission-package 'agreements'; booting a patient once Medicaid kicks in
Can the kids block our cash flow?; childless couple agonizes over whether to use
powers of attorney or a living trust to manage our assets

Control your assets from the grave
Slacker son will blow his fortune; lawyer's role in "estate-planning"
Mom remarried and spent my inheritance; doesn't want daughter-in-law to receive anything from estate
Can we stop our brother from swindling us?
What Gifting Will Disqualify You From Medicaid
The 'magic' language for a power of attorney agreement
Is care insurance a healthy choice?
Is there protection against Medicaid costs?
Long-term care insurance comes up short
HIPAA -- too much privacy?; nursing home doc could care less
Private pay nursing home residents pay more
Separated families should use care managers
What Makes Up a Caregiving Team?
Who is the client, parents or children?:

© 2004, Jan Warner