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Attorney2, Attorney
Category: Estate Law
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Experience:  29 Years in General Practice and Estate Planning
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My mom passed August 1st of pancreatic cancer. In December

Customer Question

My mom passed August 1st of pancreatic cancer.
In December she had an attorney write a trust and a will for her. My brother and I are the only beneficiaries on both. She lived in Florida and we lived in New YorkIn December, friends of hers began to take care of her- Much happened but In my opinion they did what they did for money. These friends are upstanding people who have professional positions. One is a nurse practioner. My mother had two apartments, sold them upon their advice and moved into their home in January. My mom stopped answering the phone and I began to annoy her. The closeness we shared in December was gone by April even though I would call everyday. No answer.She had health insurance- and told the agency her next of kin were these two people. The owner of the agency said this woman told them that her and her husband were my moms only family.My mother was heavily medicated (pain killers for cancer)In the will and trust everything is left to us. All her housewares, jewelry but now all that stuff is in these people's home. Who believe everything of my moms is theirs. The jewelry at least 10 grand is gone. She first said my mom didn't leave it for me and then said, I don't have it and I don't know what you're talking about. I called the bank because mom had many checks made out to cash. Several were identified as fraudulent by the bank. One check we were reinburesed for.The trust that was written up, my mom didn't follow through and so there is no bank account titled to a trust. I am the trustee It is my understanding that I could title an account in the
Name of the trust but there will be tax implications.The will - have to go to probateShe has several checks from the insurance company made to her estate and 44 grand in stock that needs to be transferredSo I want to know do I have a choice with which way to go
Will or trust?If I go probate, do I have any chance of getting any of moms possessions back. I took pictures she gave us 4 bags of moms stuff and said that's all she has for you. One bag was filled with diapers.They will claim mom gave them all her stuff while she lived with them. Accuse me of lying about my moms jewelry (hard to believe this person is a nurse practioner).Before we knew they would take my moms stuff we offered to pay there way for the funeral. We owed them 1300 for a hotel in Manhattan that they selected. We have not paid them
Submitted: 9 months ago.
Category: Estate Law
Expert:  FamilyAttorney replied 9 months ago.

Hello and thanks for using Just Answer. I’m a licensed attorney with 36 years’ experience in family law, appeals, landlord-tenant, and other types of law.

This is general information and not legal advice. No specific course of action is proposed, and no attorney-client relationship is formed. This is for educational purposes only.

Also, I’d like to review your question for a minute, type your answer and then I’ll be right back. I promise I haven’t disappeared but am working on your answer.

Expert:  FamilyAttorney replied 9 months ago.

I'm so sorry about your mom and also about the stuff she went through this last year. I've lost family members to the same disease -- it's horrible. So is taking advantage of someone, which is what the people did here. They weren't friends. They abused their duties and now they should be made to pay for it.

In situations like this, people often go through probate because the court should be aware of the fraud that happened and about the abuse of the elderly -- your mother. Florida is good about protecting the elderly, especially in cases like this. You want the judge to know what happened here. They took advantage of your mother and they pushed you out of her life. Your mom didn't have a choice -- she trusted them or was coerced by them to do what she did. These people took advantage of her and took advantage of their position. Now it's time to make them pay for it.

I don't know if you'll get anything back only because they could have sold it already, but hopefully there will some stuff otherwise they will can be heavily penalized. You will want to get a wills and estates attorney in Fla to do this for you and for your brother. Just let me know if you want me to find lawyers for you, which I am happy to do.

Florida has taken steps to increase the protections of vulnerable adults through enacting the abuse of the elderly statute. The Florida Exploitation of Elderly Statute imposes civil penalties on persons who exploit a vulnerable adult in Florida. These civil actions against exploiters is strong —as the statute allows actual and punitive damages by a victim and the prevailing party can also recover attorney fees and costs. Also, the statute is non-exclusive and allows cumulative remedies against perpetrators. Finally, actions under Chapter 772 (Civil Penalties for Criminal Practices) allow for civil remedies for theft or exploitation of the elderly and can include treble (triple) damages, attorneys’ fees and court costs. These are for private civil actions against these people -- however, you will want to start bringing up the exploitation and abuse in the probate court because this is a fraud upon the court and upon you and your brother. Sadly, their actions also defrauded your mother and deprived her of you.

Florida law defines a “vulnerable adult” as any person over 18 years of age or older whose ability to perform the normal activities of daily living or to provide for his or her own care or protection is impaired due to a mental, emotional, long-term physical, or developmental disability or dysfunction, or brain damage, or the infirmities of aging.

Expert:  FamilyAttorney replied 9 months ago.

According to Florida law, “exploitation” may include, but is not limited to:

1. Breaches of fiduciary relationships, such as the misuse of a power of attorney or the abuse of guardianship duties, resulting in the unauthorized appropriation, sale, or transfer of property;

2. Unauthorized taking of personal assets;

3. Misappropriation, misuse, or transfer of moneys belonging to a vulnerable adult from a personal or joint account; or

4. Intentional or negligent failure to effectively use a vulnerable adult’s income and assets for the necessities required for that person’s support and maintenance.

When your mom was medicated, she may have signed a power of attorney or guardianship papers without knowing what she did. They indeed took advantage of her situation and I'm sure they have had, or still have, her possessions. However upstanding these people were, they're not really, and they committed fraud, period. The probate judge should know what happened. If you have to bring a separate lawsuit against them, okay, but you may be able to do this all through the probate court. That's certainly the place to start.

Just let me know if you want me to find attorneys for you. I'm always happy to help.

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Customer: replied 9 months ago.
Ok - my mom and I went years without speaking. Our relationship was a rocky one. However, a year before she was diagnosed we made up and were close again. Texting each other every day. In December she left everything to us.Its my hunch that the lack of communication between her and I (she wouldn't answer the phone while living with them- also claimed the phone was broken) caused old resentments between her and I to come to the surface which these people played off of.They will also say that since my mom moved in with them it was unnecessary to have two sets of furniture and things so they got rid of theirs.I don't have many pictures of the jewelry she had- Although I can list at least ten items that come to mind (she had much more) I have some relatives who could confirm some of the stuff that is missing. One relative saw her within the month she passed and. She still hadHer clothing- her department store bills were enormous- maybe I can ask where all these items went toMy mom paid her friend 14 grand in a matter of 4 months to take her to doctors
I wanted to claim it on my moms taxes and send this woman a 1099. An accountant said that I can't do this as I don't know her social security numberFinally - when I found out that they were not giving me my moms stuff we had an argument over text message. My mom had been gone for three weeks and they were telling me that I was the worst daughter, and on and on...... really nastyThe question becomes if I fight this with them in probate, how much more will it cost me? If the woman says she knows nothing about my moms jewelry - isn't it gone? The household furnishings, I don't have pictures of most of it. The stuff I have pictures of and have asked for they said my mom gave it to themBefire mom passed she would ask us what we want- I asked for a lamp and nothing else because talking about my moms assets became tense. Currently these people have a picture that my moms cousin claimed she wanted. It was not given to her , but per the will and trust everything of hers becomes ours so why is it sitting in their house? I texted them that.They did not abuse my mother. They became her friends for moneyBut two weeks before she passed she asked for out of their home, because she was scared. She told many family members. After arguing with these people I can see where she was coming fromYes. If you could refer me to an attorney in Florida. Palm beach county that would be great. Also, my brother does not want to pursue this. For hi. It's. It personal
For me, I had another girl clean out my moo s room and send me the leftoversI am trustee on the trust. On the will I am o-executor
Expert:  FamilyAttorney replied 9 months ago.

Hello, and Happy Thanksgiving. I'm so sorry about all of this.

I will send you names of attorneys in Palm Beach county. How much it's going to cost will depend on the different law firms. They all charge different prices, and I'm sure it will range anywhere from $1000 to several thousand dollars, but it's hard to say, plus each state has its own "going rate" which law firms will use as a guide -- sometimes. They don't always do that and are free to set their own prices. You will really have to ask the law firms after they know a little bit about the case.

They did not physically abuse your mother, but this is a form of elder abuse. Elder abuse often takes the form of psychological abuse, and takes the form of making the elderly person trust these people and end up giving them her stuff. They gave you a bag of diapers? That's outrageous. They convinced her to give things to them -- this is all part of elder abuse. You can have an elder abuse lawyer look into this or a wills and estates lawyer. I will send you a list of both.

Expert:  FamilyAttorney replied 9 months ago.

We aren't allowed here to give specific names of referrals but I can give you names and explain, with my handy, short, and easy to read guide how to pick attorneys. My customers here say that they have found great lawyers from the information I have given them.

I know you don't want to think that your mom was taken advantage of, but as lawyers, we see this happening a lot to the elderly and we are trained to know what is elder abuse and what isn't. This is why it's a good idea to explore if there was elder abuse here. I can't say that it was, definitively, but it appears that it may have been. An elder lawyer can help you with that, as can some estate lawyers, so that's why I will give you both sets of lawyers.

Palm Beach County Wills and Estates lawyers:

Palm Beach County Elder law lawyers:

Here's my guide:

How to choose an attorney.

Here's what to look for and what to avoid.

Avoid: Any red mark next to an attorney's name, such as misconduct. That usually means the lawyer was either disbarred, censured, cited for misconduct, or suspended from the practice of law.

Ignore: Ratings, such as 6.5 or 10, which is the highest. A 6.5 attorney may be even better than a 10. It's difficult to say. The site has its own formula for rating attorneys and many attorneys get a 10 because they belong to bar associations and sometimes give lectures. That does not necessarily mean they're the best when it comes to going to court.

What to look for: See what the clients’ reviews state, especially in the field that you're interested in (i.e. wills, custody, guardianship, etc.). That is probably going to be the most important thing. Many people have not been rated, but if there are a bunch of them who are, go with the ones who have multiple ratings and that are outstanding.

I would also suggest you find someone who has been practicing at least 10 years, the more the better. The site will tell you how long they're practicing law. You don't want someone just a few years out of law school to take on your tough case.

Take a few names and make some phone calls. Ask for a free consultation -- see if you can get one. If you don't feel confident in the lawyer, find another one. That's why it's good to make a list of the ones you want, maybe 5-6 lawyers and you'll find one. It’s okay to walk out of a lawyer’s office and don’t sign anything if you’re not comfortable with the lawyer. You want an aggressive lawyer to help you and someone who will return phone calls.You can always fire a lawyer if you're not happy.

Please let me know if I answered all of your questions or if I missed anything. I want to make sure you are happy and satisfied with the answer. I go the extra mile to make sure my customers here have information about lawyers, and that the questions, no matter how many of them, are answered.

Expert:  FamilyAttorney replied 9 months ago.

It's a lot of money, $14,000, for what they did to take her to doctors! That's just crazy, in my opinion. I think they took advantage of her and I hope that is not the case. Then they withheld stuff from you? That's not good. Her stuff may be gone and I hope you can still get it.

Becoming friends with someone for money is a form of psychological elder abuse. I hope your mom was happy at the end and hope that they didn't take advantage of her, which I fear they did. An elder lawyer can check into that for you.

If your mom was scared and wanted out, she knew she was being scammed. That is psychological elder abuse. You can use a wills and estates lawyer or an elder lawyer who also does wills and estates. I'd use the second type -- this way the lawyer does elder law PLUS wills and estates, so the lawyer will be knowledgeable about both types of law.

Be well, and let me know what else I can do for you, if you need me to. Thank you!

Expert:  Attorney2 replied 9 months ago.

Welcome to JA and thank you for your question. The Attorney that was working with you opted out and I was asked to check to see if you needed additional assistance as it would be my pleasure to help. I too lost a parent to pancreatic cancer and can empathize with your situation. Please let me know what additional questions you may have for me.