“My mother passed in July at age 99.
I was my mom’s caregiver for the last eight years of her life. I took her to all her appointments, paid the bills, took care of the house, and made sure the whole family got to see her.
I was happy to do all this for her and after I lost my husband it was a blessing to have her to care for. It gave me a purpose. I didn’t ask to be paid and didn’t want to be paid.
When she passed, her attorney told me I was in charge of the estate. In her will she gave everything to her four children equally.
She had deeded the house to us many years ago. Her IRA has already been split up for us. She had a small life insurance policy that we used for her burial.
That left her bank account – a little over $80,000. She and I were on the account so I could pay the bills. The bank and the attorney says it goes to me, but that’s not right. My brothers all say they want me to have it, too.
I don’t know how to feel or what to do.
My husband left me in very good shape with my finances. I don’t need the money.
What would you suggest I do?”
The first thing you can do is to accept the gratitude your brothers are expressing. And second, you can feel wonderful about the gift of life you gave your mom. Finally, you might wish to be grateful for the blessing you were given to be with your mom, serve her needs, and (likely) have your needs met as well.
The attorney and the bank are explaining the law. When your mom set up her bank account with your name added to it she made you a joint owner. At her passing, as the joint owner, the account is legally yours.
Your brothers are explaining their reality. For whatever reasons in their lives they were unable to do what you could do for your mom. This money is a small token of their gratitude and it would be a blessing to them for you to accept it graciously.
My (quite confident) guess is that if we divided the $60,000 you are receiving (your share would have been $20,000 if it had been split) by the number of hours you spent caring for your mom over the last eight years, you are receiving much less than the minimum wage. And my most confident guess is that you couldn’t care less.
Just an idea – maybe take a bit of this money and choose a non-profit that means a great deal to you and make a gift in memory of your mom. Your mom’s memory lives on.
For our readers, this young lady’s experience carries at least two lessons that might benefit you or yours. First, joint bank accounts are often set up for the purpose of making bill paying easier for an aging parent. The ‘child’ added to the account can write and sign checks for Mom or Dad. This arrangement, however, carries very specific legal ramifications. The child becomes a joint owner of the account. At the passing of the parent the account goes directly (outside the will) to the child named on the account. That may or may not have been the parent’s intent, but that is the reality of the law.
The second lesson is that not all family members are as generous of spirit as this young lady’s brothers. If you are the caregiver and find yourself in a similar situation you may not be greeted with “thank yous.” You might be greeted with anger, accusations, and lawsuits. Save your parent, yourself, and your family real and potential heartache by using the services of an experienced and trusted estate planning attorney and/or an experienced and trusted financial advisor.
Gene answers your neighbors financial questions on More than Money.
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