Dementia and Real Estate: Caring for Dad in home. How can one reader keep her father in her home while still living independently with her family?
Q: My parents own a five-acre parcel of land. My father is ill with dementia, and is living there alone. My mother assists him from a home she owns in a nearby town. They are still married, and jointly own the property where my father lives.
Real estate would be divided after death due to dementia
In their will, my brother and I will inherit the five-acre property when they pass. My mother has stated she would find it helpful if my husband and I built on the back acreage of the property. The idea is to live near my father and help take care of him. This would allow him to remain there and avoid placing him in a memory care facility.
However, part of the land she’s talking about belongs to my brother. Is there any legal and financial way for us to build now on that land? When my father passes away, my mother is considering selling her home and living with us. My dad’s house is in terrible condition and would need extensive remodeling. It might actually need to be torn down.
What options do we have if we want to care for dad in his home?
Dementia takes precedence over real estate ownership
A: It’s hard to imagine how your father will stay in a home by himself, with dementia, let alone a home that might actually need to be torn down. Is this the future you want for him? Or, for yourself?
It’s clearly difficult to manage your father’s health now. That’s why your mom is assisting him while living elsewhere. And, the living/property ownership situation is challenging. She owns a home. They own a five-acre parcel. And, your brother owns land that abuts your parents’ property. Presumably, you and your husband own a home as well.
Can you manage Dad’s dementia and real estate issues?
The idea your mother has is that you’ll take over her caregiving responsibilities. You will pay to build a home (we’ll get to the land ownership question in a moment) so you can be on-site. That will keep your dad in his house and out of assisted living or memory care.
That sounds good, and it may even be financially prudent. But are you prepared for that emotionally or physically? Does your father recognize you or anyone else right now? Are you prepared for when he doesn’t? Can you physically lift him, bathe him, and handle all of the other responsibilities associated with a patient suffering from dementia? If you can, and you’re willing to in the future, that’s great. Caregiving is a difficult, often thankless job. And, it sounds as though your mom has decided you’ll be her caregiver, too.
Dementia and real estate: Options
So, let’s assume you decide to do this, and your brother agrees. You have a couple of options with regard to the property. Your parents can buy some of his land and attach it to the five-acre lot. Your parents could get a loan against the property to build the house. Or, if the land for the house is sold to you, and you can qualify, you can apply for a mortgage to build your home.
You’ll need to hire an attorney to review the land your parents own and the land your brother owns. While a land swap is possible, you need to make sure that any land swap complies with local ordinances including those that regulate the division of large lots into smaller ones and zoning regulations. For example if your parents’ and your brother’s lots are both five acre parcels but the zoning in the area has a minimum lot size of five acres, we don’t know if it would be possible for your brother to transfer some of his land to add to your parents’ land.
Hire a real estate attorney and an estate attorney
For these reasons, you’ll need a real estate attorney that has knowledge of the land use rules in your area to determine what you can and can’t do with the land. If you determine that your brother can part with some of his acreage to you or your parents, you’ll still need to have something in writing to make sure that all the money you put into building your home is protected. For example, once your parents pass, you don’t want any sibling claiming that the home you built that is on your parents’ land should be divided up and split with your siblings.
There are quite a number of issues to sort through. You’ll need to work through land issues, building issues and estate planning. All of this needs to be discussed and documented with a real estate attorney or an estate attorney (or both!) before you venture further into breaking ground. You’ll also need to sit down with all your family members to work out any agreement that you may want or need relating to both the building of the home, the land and your role in taking care of your father now and, later, your mother.
Dementia and real estate: Make sure dad’s estate plan is in order
In addition to a will, we hope your parents have the rest of their estate in order. Your father clearly needs a power of attorney for health matters and another for financial matters. Once his disease progresses too far, he won’t be able to make decisions for himself. He and your mother should also sign living wills, putting their doctors on notice as to what sort of lifesaving procedures will be undertaken.
Finally, you must have a difficult conversation with your parents about what happens if you can’t take care of your father. What is the backup plan and how will that get paid for?
Tough road. Good luck.
Dementia and real estate: Read more
©2023 by Ilyce Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency. REM C1599