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Thursday, March 21, 2013

101-year-old woman battling for home over handwritten deed

I read the attached article from about 101-year-old Lois Risse, and all I could think was "what a mess". How sad that this woman has to undergo the stress of this legal battle and the surrounding circumstances, when it could easily have been prevented.

It appears that since Mrs. Risse's husband died 30 years ago, the people around her may well have been taking advantage of her. She has made mistakes herself as well. Click here to read the story. Shortly after her husband's death, she sold her home to a friend using a handwritten deed. There was a verbal agreement that the deed would not be recorded until Mrs. Risse passed away, and an assurance by the buyer, Mr. Neff, that Mrs. Risse could live in the home for as long as she wanted.

The story became more complicated, including a friend who moved in and kept Mrs. Risse isolated from her neighbours, persuaded Mrs. Risse to buy him a motorcycle and didn't leave until the sheriff's office forced him out. Then of course, there was the adding of Mr. Neff's name to Mrs. Risse's bank account shortly after her husband died. Eventually the court appointed a conservator for Mrs. Risse to protect her from the people in her life, and the conservator, not knowing about the sale deed, applied for a reverse mortgage for Mrs. Risse. At that point, Mr. Neff recorded the deed.

Now everyone is in court to sort out various legal issues. On my reading of the article, each step forward seems just to lead to more questions.

As I mentioned above, most of this heartache and financial loss could have been avoided. The following are some of the errors that led to this situation:

1.  Creation of a hand-written document with no legal advice. The house was Mrs. Risse's largest and most important asset, and now she has lost it. An asset of this importance is worth the cost of seeing a lawyer for an hour to make sure it's protected.
2.  Verbally agreeing to terms that vary a written agreement without documenting them in any way. Now it's one person's word against another, and one of those people is 101 years old.
3.  Not keeping a record of money supposedly paid under the agreement. Apparently neither Mrs. Risse nor Mr. Neff can produce receipts for payment, though he insists it has all been paid. Now Mrs. Risse's bank records are being examined by strangers to try to piece together what happened, and neighbours are pitted against each other with accusations of taking advantage of Mrs. Risse.
4.  Adding Mr. Neff's name to the bank account. I can't imagine what purpose that would serve for Mrs. Risse. Now it's almost impossible to figure out where money went and to verify Mrs. Risse's claims that her money was disappearing.

Unfortunately, many of the mistakes made here are made pretty often. People seem to think that insisting on legalities or formalities between friends or neighbours is insulting. This story is an example of what can happen even when you trust someone.


  1. I am a reporter with Activist Post and have been following this story for several months. The article by Greg Cappis did not include some of the pivotal issue surrounding this story. The conservator attached to this case has had her license withheld by the State of California, has drunk driving convictions, has undergone two grand jury investigations and beaucoup lawsuits. Her case had no merit and last week the judge in San Bernardino Probate court ruled against her petition to take away Glenn Neff's house.

    1. Thanks for the update and the additional information.



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