In litigation involving the financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult, timing is often everything. Let’s say, for instance, that Dad really likes his new caregiver. So much that his is “helping her out” financially. You smell trouble, and you’re probably right. The question is what to do, and more to the point: when to do it. The same question comes up when the concern about exploitation involves a sibling or a new spouse.
Clients sometimes get confused about the way lawyers use the word “property.” In the legal community, the word “property” has a very broad meaning. It means anything a person or entity could own. Different types of property are then classified with different labels. For example, the term “real property” is used to mean land and things affixed to the land. “Intellectual property” refers to things like trademarks and patents. Bank accounts and investments are referred to as “intangible personal property.”
From the perspective of the child who moved to New Jersey 30 years ago, the sibling who moved back into the family home to live with (and be supported by) his aging mother is a ne’er-do-well scam artist who took advantage of and manipulated his mother as her health declined so that, in the end, her entire estate passed to him by one means or another. From the perspective of the son who lived with his mother during those final years of life, he sacrificed to allow his mother to enjoy her final years in a safe environment outside of assisted living, and she favored him out of appreciation for that sacrifice.
As Duane Horton contemplated his death, he decided to use on app on his smartphone to write a message that explained how he wanted his estate distributed when he was gone. Under Michigan law, that “document” was his will. So says the Michigan Court of Appeals in the recent case of In Re Estate of Duane Francis Horton, II.