Dear Len & Rosie,
For 24 years I have lived with my mother. I have been her care giver for the past 14 years. I gave up a lot of my life and personal happiness for her. I am not sorry I did this. My sister told me that she did not want to take care of mom, and that I could have the house if I did. She lives in another state and rarely visits.
Mother gave me one-half of the home so that we could borrow against the property. We qualified for the loan on my salary and her equity, and spent almost $100,000 on repairs and improvements. I pay the mortgage payments, taxes and insurance. The home is now worth $400,000.
Now my sister complains that she is being cheated out of her fair share of the home when mom dies. My sister says that she feels that this is cruel and that she is being punished for "living her own life".
I have tried to explain to my sister that I have paid for the house and cared for mom, and that the house is my retirement investment. She doesn't accept this, and I know she is going to cause trouble when my mother dies.
It is usually the children who do the least for their parents who put their hands out first and furthest when their parents die. Your sister is selfish now. That's not going to change when your mother dies.
Your mother has the right to leave her assets to anyone that she wants. Some people think the only fair thing to do is to leave their assets to their children in equal shares. Others believe that they should give a little more to those of their children who have not been as successful in life as the others.
Still others, such as your mother, leave assets to the children who stand by them in their time of need and care for them as they age. Which way is the most fair? All of them. If your mother wants to reward you for caring for her, she may do so. It is her right to do whatever she wishes.
After your mother's death, your sister may claim that you unduly influenced your mother and conned her into leaving everything to you. She won't have much of a case if your mother added you to the deed to her home long ago. If she did it recently, you may have problems as your mother is dependent on your care.
Your mother can best protect your inheritance now by reviewing her estate plan with a trusts and estates attorney, in a private meeting without you in the room. Let the attorney evaluate your mother's capacity and verify that she really wants to leave everything to you. He or she can make sure your mother's estate plan is up to date, and the attorney will also be a witness in your favor if your sister tries to sue you after your mother's death.
Len & Rosie