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Monday, June 8, 2020

Adult children still looking for ways to get their hands on parent's money

Today we received another question about distributing a parent's estate while that parent is still alive. I've blogged about this before, but the question comes up so frequently that I believe it's worth talking about again.

Today's caller said that their mother has moved into a care facility. The caller is the executor of the mother's will. In total, there are four children.

The question was whether the children could distribute the bulk of the mother's money to themselves. The answer is no. Sorry, but you'll have to wait.

First of all, the fact that the caller is the executor in a will doesn't mean a thing until the owner of the will dies. If the mother is alive, the executor has absolutely no legal authority to distribute anything to anyone. Period.

Secondly, the will describes what to do with the estate after the mother dies. It does not say what to do while she is alive. People have to outlive her by a certain amount of time. There is no such thing as taking the inheritance early because the right to inherit does not even arise until the mother dies.

Had this been the extent of the conversation, I would have formed no negative judgment of the caller. I am thrilled when someone asks a question that prevents them from making a legal error. But once all of this was explained to the caller, the next question was whether they could sell the mother's house and split that money. Somehow my message was not getting through. This family wants mother's money and they want it now. The law is inconvenient and they were hoping that we would help them find the loophole to take the funds. That's not what I do.

So let me say this as plainly as I can. If you take money from someone without their knowledge and consent, it is theft. Yes, theft. Even if it's your mother. A parent with dementia who no longer understands money cannot give that consent. Being an executor doesn't allow you to touch a thing while the parent is still alive. If you act under a POA and sell a parent's property, you are not allowed to touch that money either. It has to be invested for the parent.

At this point, I am usually met with a round of objections such as "mom doesn't need that money" or  or "it's going to be ours anyway" and other similar rationalizations. You can argue with me all you like, but the law says what it says. Bottom line is this; It's NOT your money. It's not up to you to decide whether she still wants her property. If you are acting under a POA, then yes you do get to decide what your parent needs financially, but you're still not allowed to give away the rest.

Try to get over the idea that because someone is old, they have no rights. They do. And one of their rights is to be protected from greedy children. I always get a lot of push-back from readers when I post or talk about this topic because they are offended that I call the children greedy and I call their actions theft. Maybe that seems harsh. But is it really, when the children are ignoring the mother's wishes as set out in her will and actively looking for ways to get around the rules for their own financial gain?



9 comments:

  1. Lynne,

    It is difficult for me to even remotely comprehend why anyone would believe they have free access to inheritence assets before the parents have passed. Greed, it's out there.

    Webeye

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Webeye, as I mentioned in my post, this attitude is very widespread. It's basically "I'm going to inherit it anyway so what difference does it make if I get it now or later". Just an immense sense of entitlement.

      Lynne

      Delete
    2. This is a great post Lynne. Thank you for being very direct.

      Delete
    3. Agree...a great post but it seems that the people who need the info will not get it. I wish I could give a "like" to many of your posts...just for feedback to you. Thanks!

      Delete
    4. Chris, a selection of emojis like on Facebook would certainly provide me with feedback (and not always positive!) Thanks for reading.

      Lynne

      Delete
  2. Who says they are getting it anyways? If they don't know the content of the Will it may all be going to charity. Wouldn't that make things interesting?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. QV, you are absolutely right. I guess the sense of entitlement doesn't really allow them to envision any other scenario. And of course, I have been asked more than once to challenge a will when the testator hasn't even passed away yet. Greed changes people.

      Lynne

      Delete
  3. Lynne, I am so glad to see this dealt with so firmly and clearly (like all of your writing!) In my 35 years of law practice I ran into this more than once. Maybe your next book should be called "Things you Just Can't Do".

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Claire, I like that title. Thanks for the idea, and thanks for reading.

      Lynne

      Delete

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