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My elderly mother-in-law has progressive dementia. My sister-in-law took her $70K in rent. Is this ethical?

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My mother-in-law has progressive dementia. When she started failing at home, my wife and her brother proposed to move her to a one-room cottage on our property. This did not happen, so she went to a room in my brother-in-law and sister-in-law’s house.

We had proposed to pay them a rent of $ 1,200, usually for that property, so my brother-in-law insisted that he charge the same amount for living in a room in their house. Over the past five years, they have increased that figure to $1,800 a month.

But the real burden is that he needs 24/7 care.

Me and my wife see him three or four times a week during the day, and we have put in thousands of hours and have never been compensated, while my brother and sister-in-law have taken about $ 70,000. time limit.

I have spoken to my wife on several occasions about how unfair the situation seems to me. My questions are: Do you think it is ethical to “hire” an elderly relative? If so, does our arrangement seem reasonable?

What would you do in this situation?

son in law

dear son-in-law,

Your family is facing a complex financial and moral puzzle.

Any arrangement that is agreed upon, and helps to make the last years of your mother-in-law comfortable and free from financial insecurity, is worth exploring. Your brother-in-law is becoming transparent with the family, but this does not mean that this situation is ideal. He and his wife are not the only Actually Landlords, they are the caretakers.

Not everyone will rent a parent, but the situation appears to be more complicated than just room and board. Your family should look into the laws in your state with the help of an elderly care attorney to ensure that no arrangements prevent your mother-in-law from receiving financial support.

“It is legitimate and not uncommon for parents to pay their adult children for the costs associated with housing and care,” says Anne Tumlinson, founder of Daughterhood, a Washington, DC-based organization that focuses on helping older parents. Provides resources to caregivers. She advocates working with an elderly care attorney.


‘Not everyone will take parental rent, but the situation appears to be more complicated than just room and board.’

“It’s smart to have a legal settlement, not just forcing the family to have a conversation about what’s appropriate and make it clear, [but] This is important in the event that parents are ever required to apply for Medicaid coverage for higher levels of care, “she adds. If not, the rent and care” will be limited to parental funds. Can be counted as. “

But there is another issue to consider: if someone should have the power of attorney over your mother-in-law’s property, especially given her declining cognitive ability. Ideally, this should happen when the health of an elderly relative declines to such an extent that they have little or no understanding of their financial affairs.

If your mother-in-law’s dementia has progressed to the point where she no longer understands what is going on, a court-appointed guardianship or guardianship will allow a third party to make financial decisions and health care. Formalizing the care of your mother-in-law will make everyone more accountable.

Kern Singh, Founder Singh Law Firm In Fremont, Calif., agrees you’d likely be assigned a mentor, given that your mother has progressive dementia: “We’re in a gray area. If her doctors have stated in writing that she is mentally challenged – she does not have legal capacity – she cannot enter into a lease agreement.”


‘Court-appointed guardianship or conservatorship will allow a third party to make financial decisions and health care.’

“Suppose a lease agreement is legally entered into, the rent levied must be at fair market value,” he says. “A quick rental market analysis should be done to see what the same rent is being charged for a room in a shared house. What your brother-in-law is charging may not be the market rent. That would be a problem.”

He says that you have three tasks ahead of you: 1. Determine if your mother has the ability to sign a Power of Attorney. 2. Get help locating fair market rent for a room in a shared home, and draft a lease agreement. 3. Discuss care options for your mother through the county to free the children from 24/7 care.

After all, you all have the same goal, and you are trying to do what is right. But it is time to hold a family meeting to ensure that no one, financially, in good faith or otherwise, is benefiting from a situation that should be handled by the entire family, and is subject to proper legal oversight. with.

You can email The Manitist at qfotrell@marketwatch.com for any financial and ethical questions related to the coronavirus, and follow Quentin Fotrell Twitter.

By emailing your questions, you agree to publish them anonymously on MarketWatch. By submitting your story to Dow Jones & Company, the publisher of MarketWatch, you understand and agree that we may use your story, or versions thereof, across all media and platforms, including third parties.

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