My husband’s father died 6 years ago. His sister sold his home, my husband received nothing from the sale. It sold for approximately $440,000. She lived in the house approximately 8 yrs free of charge after placing their father in a nursing home. My husband was supposed to have a medical trust fund but we were recently informed there was not one. There was no money for his medical needs. Two weeks later when I finally was able to make contact with her she informed me she would be sending $40,000. She has not sent us a single statement of the funds activity. She moved back east, bought a condo I’ve been told, then moved back to CA, not working. How do we go about tracking activity on the account and getting the monies he is entitled to?
Thank you for your question about the possibility of elder financial abuse against your father-in-law.
It is hard to tell from your question whether your husband or his sister are entitled to anything from your deceased father-in-law’s estate. You make no mention of whether he had a Will or a trust — just that your husband was supposed to have what you refer to as a medical trust fund. I suspect you might be referring to a Special Needs Trust.
Under California law, it is not possible to transfer title to real property in a deceased person’s name or to sell it without first going through probate. if your sister probated her father’s estate, she would have been required to give your husband notice of the probate. because it does not sound like that ever occurred, I suspect that his sister got her father to transfer title to the house to her prior to his death by signing a deed. If that did not happen, my next guess was that his father transferred title to the residence to a revocable living trust that his sister was the trustee of.
Given that you state his father was in a nursing home for eight years prior to his death, there is a real possibility that he lacked capacity to sign a deed or execute a trust at the time it was done (assuming that either actually occurred). His father may have also been susceptible to undue influence and financial elder abuse by his sister.
I would recommend that your husband first ask his sister how she obtained the power to sell the residence after their father died and why she believes she was entitled to keep all of the sale proceeds. If she produces a deed or a trust that gives the property to her, your husband will have to consider whether it was likely that his father knew what he was doing at the time the document was signed. If his sister was a caregiver at the time that title was transferred, there could be a heightened level of scrutiny of her actions. Depending on what his research produces, your husband may want to consult with an attorney who handles financial elder abuse and probate litigation cases to see what his next step might be.
You can find more information about trust contests and financial elder abuse here and about contesting a Will here.
If you would like to schedule an appointment to discuss this matter with one of our estate planning lawyers or elder law attorneys, call us at 951-787-7711. Riverside estate planning and elder law attorney Dennis M. Sandoval specializes in assisting persons with elder financial abuse and probate litigation cases.
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