Q: It was never a matter of my sister and I not talking to my parents about the future and power of attorneys, it was their steadfast refusal to want to deal with their situation given my father’s physical needs and my mother’s memory issues. Our situation was compounded by their living in a different state.
This past spring, my father collapsed into a diabetic coma. My mother was also diagnosed with vascular dementia (which affects her short term memory but leaves her understanding mechanism fine…for the moment). We got a power of attorney from my father while he was in the hospital but because of her diagnosis, could not get one for her (despite that fact that she understands her situation).
After he was released, we relocated both of them to an assisted living facility near us. Health-wise, they are both doing so much better there. Then we looked into their finances.
They have apparently been spending the last few years “improving” the house with con men that did no harm to the house, but have been charging them an arm and a leg. Pretty much, they had enough to cover their expenses through the end of this year.
They are both okay with selling the house in Brooklyn (which is valued at $1.2 million and would take care of them quite well until they pass away). The problem is my mother’s name is on the deed.
We really don’t need or want to go the guardianship route since she’s settled nicely now and it can take months. Their financial situation requires that we sell the house ASAP. We’ve thought about doing a quit claim deed since her understanding is still good, but we’re not sure.
Can my Dad sign a quit claim deed that removes her as owner? Can we since we have a power of attorney for him?
A: I’m not an attorney, but if your mother has been given a diagnosis of a medical condition that imperils her memory, a court would possibly find that she is incapable of signing legal paperwork. The court would see that only she can sign legal documents that would transfer title of the home to anybody else. Your father would not be able to transfer title out of her name any more than you would be able to transfer title in your home from your spouse.
You should speak to an elder care attorney immediately. Even though you don’t want to go through the hassle of establishing guardianship, you might have to do it. The elder law attorney may also be able to get a temporary order to allow the home to be transferred to a living trust or to your father. He or she may also have some other constructive ideas for you that will help you resolve your parents’ financial issues.
These are tough issues and you’ll need to work hard to get them taken care of now, after the fact. Even if you transfer title out of your mother’s name, it may take some time to sell your parents’ house, since the real estate market is quite uneven and in some parts of the country, it is taking months to sell expensive homes.
Good luck and let me know what happens.
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