Updated: 8/3/2012 12:31 PM ET|
When Dad marries a gold digger
Other times it can be hard for families to tell if they're dealing with a predator or a real paramour. The kids' judgment can be clouded when they realize Dad's girlfriend may one day stand between them and an inheritance.
"Sometimes, it's the kids who are the gold diggers," Whitenack said.
After 30 years of practicing law, elder-law attorney Bradley Frigon of Denver said he is seeing more of these contentious relationships. People are living longer, he said, and are more likely to enter into new romances after divorce or the death of a spouse.
"There are a lot of wonderful marriages late in life that work well," Frigon said. "But when the new spouse and the kids are very suspicious of each other, that can cause problems."
The kids may have no legal standing to intervene if the older person has "capacity" -- meaning he or she is of sound enough mind and not suffering from dementia or other incapacitating illness.
"Dad may make some really bad decisions," Whitenack said, "and there's nothing you can do about that if he is an adult and if he is competent."
But whether someone has capacity is not always clear-cut. "Is Dad being eccentric or is he crazy?" is how Champion summarizes this dilemma. And even people who don't have dementia can be subject to "undue influence," where they can't resist the will of a stronger or more controlling person who can successfully pressure them to do things they wouldn't otherwise do.
One thing that probably won't work is being blunt about your suspicions of your parent's new love. "That's like saying to a teenager, 'This person is not good for you. You should stop seeing her,'" Whitenack said. "They're going to get all defensive on you and tell you to butt out."
Instead, try sympathy and a gentle nudge toward an attorney who might help protect the parent's assets. "You can say, 'It must be really great to have someone in your life,'" Whitenack said, and then go on to point out that late-in-life relationships and marriage can affect pensions, Social Security, veterans benefits, taxes and possibly credit obligations. "'Maybe you should connect with an elder-law attorney who can help you take care of things.'"
A prenuptial agreement or a management trust can put assets beyond the reach of a gold digger. Other things that elder-law experts say families can do to battle a financial predator:
- Do everything you can to stay in touch. Financial predators often try to isolate the elderly person from his or her family, Champion said. The predator may get to the phone first when you call, for example, and make excuses about why your parent can't talk to you. Or she may be so unpleasant in face-to-face encounters that you'll be tempted to stay away. Keep calling and visiting anyway, and include the parent in family gatherings, even if it means accepting the predator's unwanted presence. If you don't live close enough to visit often, consider hiring a geriatric-care manager to look in on your parent every week or so. (You can find information on hiring these specialists on the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers website.) Costs vary widely by the level of service, but they typically range from $20 to $90 an hour.
- Consider early intervention. Many families feel squeamish about interfering with a parent's romantic or social life, but elder-law attorney Donna Bashaw of Laguna Hills, Calif., said they may need to overcome their reluctance if the parent is suffering from dementia or other cognitive problems. Getting the parent away for a few days on a vacation or trip to see relatives may be enough to destroy the predator's influence if it's still in the beginning stages, Bashaw said. "If it's early, I try to get the families to get (the parent) away from this person," she said. "Sometimes taking a trip is enough to get (the parent) to forget them."
- Call for help. If you suspect abuse, neglect or exploitation, the National Center on Elder Abuse recommends calling the elder-abuse hot line in the state where your parent lives. The national Eldercare Locator hot line at 800-677-1116 also can direct you to the protective-services office nearest your parent.
- If all else fails, consider conservatorship. A conservatorship gives you legal authority over your parent's affairs, but it can be an expensive and sometimes futile battle if the parent fights back. If you believe you may need to go this route, hire an attorney who specializes in this area. The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys can offer referrals.
Liz Weston is the Web's most-read personal-finance writer. She is the author of several books, most recently "The 10 Commandments of Money: Survive and Thrive in the New Economy" (find it on Bing). Weston's award-winning columns appear every Monday and Thursday, exclusively on MSN Money. Join the conversation and send in your financial questions on Liz Weston's Facebook fan page.
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Holy crap that article is disturbing. They forgot the most obvious way to protect your parents. Threaten to break the frakking legs of the preditor. Then do if they don't leave your parents alone.
That's the way we handle things in my family. Nobody fraks with us without consequences.
My father married a nice woman he met at church after my mother died. My parents had already had a trust set up before she passed and made my sister the executor, there are five girls in my family and we always got along.
The new wife was hi maintenance, but we knew that going in. What we didn’t count on was her adult son, sucking the life out of both of them, using physical and emotional threats on them and spending all their money on motorcycles and mustangs.
I called elderly services to intervene, the police had been to the house several times, but no one wanted to go and do an interview, because the son had two big dogs in the house and my father would have to give permission.
The son ended up stabbing my father to death while he slept and putting his mother in the hospital. He died from injures he sustained from running from the cops, they figure he was on drugs, weapons hidden every wear in the house and his motorcycle parked in the living room.
After everything was said and done, we buried my father next to my mother, paid expenses and went to distribute the estate.
We found out that my sister, the executor had taken money out of the estate to pay for renovations to her house, and my other two sisters had also taken money out, with my sister’s knowledge. What was left for me and my other sister? Nothing!
So don’t think trusts and executors are the answer, or even having family members, or lawyers appointed. Make sure it takes family meetings to get any money for anyone, or get an institution that needs to be held accountable, otherwise anyone can do anything.
Trust no one!
I've been there. Dad could not see the young gold digger for what she was and that she was only using him until she used him up and moved on. She worked hard at creating a wedge between me and my father, all the while trying to make herself look like a saintly, Christian woman. She even convinced my dad's brother that she only had Dad's best interest at heart. In my case, Dad died before she could convince him to marry her or change his will. She cried and carried on like a grieving widow at the funeral and couldn't stop touching him in the casket. I completely ignored her at the funeral and was chastised by Dad's brother and other family members for not speaking to her. Two weeks later, she married an even more elderly gentleman and they were all shocked. She cleaned out that old man and moved on to another after that. I'm sure there have been more that I'm not aware of. The worst part is that my relationship with Dad was strained in the last months of his life. I'm just thankful I never said anything mean or hurtful to him during that time.
Not much you can do if the man is declared competent, but marries the b!tch anyway, and she cleans him out.
You can't fix stupid, young or old.
Agg. Me too.
Dad decided to clean himself up and find a new wife. It took about 2 days. She hooked him immediately and this brilliant retired corporate executive could not see it at all. He was in love. Puppy love. Worse than a teenager.
It just happened that she was losing her house within about 3 months and would have been homeless.
Her children, all young adults and all with criminal records moved in within a week. I had some belongings in the house - they were taken. Things that my deceased mother cherished were sold. Family heirlooms were sold.
I tried to talk to him and he told me that he had a new family now and that I could go to he**. I guess he forgot that I was only his daughter and I had sacrificed all of my teen years and into my twenties literally taking care of him hand and foot after my mother died.
About 7 years later, he started to see her for what she was, but he was too far in and could not back out of the financial arrangements he had made while "in love".
He died. She got a big house, hundreds of thousands of dollars and his retirement for life.
I do not understand, cannot comprehend how these people live with themselves.
Hey Someone :),
That almost happened to my father who was disabled! I called her and ask her to meet me at the end of Captiva Island that we need to have a talk..... lol she never showed up and she never contacted my father again!!!!
I'm no kid any more. Have a few bucks but live conservatively. i've played this game with gold diggers before. You can spot them a mile away. Where do you live, what kind of car do you drive, oh you play golf at kiawah, Where was your last vacation. Looking at the lables on my cloths.
Have sex with them 3/4 times , tell them they need more waxing. The next time you go out you say, "hay isn't it your turn to buy tonight"?? they run for the hills. Very funny to watch
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