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Sept. 25, 2020, 4:19 a.m. EDT

My wife and I live with my dying mother. My brothers and I will inherit her home. Should I ask her to sell it — and move in with me?

‘If she agrees to move, and puts the money in her bank account — a joint account with one of her grandchildren — what happens to the money? She gave that grandchild survivorship rights’

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By Quentin Fottrell, MarketWatch

Dear Moneyist,

My stepfather passed away in 2019 after being in a nursing home for eight months on Medicaid. I quit my job and have lived with mom since March 2019 as she has congestive heart failure and kidney disease. I have been here for nearly two years caring for her. I have reached a point where I don’t want to live here. I feel like I’m trapped with no help from my brothers.

The Moneyist: My late husband did not see his son in 30 years. Should I mail his son photos and other memorabilia — and risk him making a claim on his estate?

I would like to move to be closer to my daughter. I am also concerned that, when she does pass, I will be left with nothing and nowhere to live. Her will states that her house is to be sold and split between myself and my three brothers. My mom told me she does not want to go into a nursing home, and she cannot afford to pay for 24/7 care.

If my wife and I move, could she sell her house and move in with us? If she agrees to move, and puts the money in her bank account — a joint account with one of her grandchildren — what happens to the money? She gave that grandchild survivorship rights. Would the will take precedence, or would the money in that bank account go to her grandchild on the account?

Need help in Michigan

Dear Michigan,

I understand that you miss your daughter, but your proposal is both tricky and complicated for you and your family. Your suggestion goes against your mother’s will. Whether or not she agrees to it is, of course, up to her, and also her family if she is proven not to be of a sound mind. If you convinced your mother to sell her home, and you benefited disproportionately from that sale, you may also leave yourself open to allegations of elder abuse.

You may have confused the right of survivorship, as it pertains to your mother’s will. If her grandchild has a right of survivorship on a certain bank account, she will inherit the money in that bank account when your mother dies. If you and your brothers have a right of survivorship on your mother’s home, if and when one brother predeceases the other, the remaining siblings will absorb that brother’s share. It sounds like your mother has thought carefully about all of this.

The Moneyist: I moved into my in-laws’ home. My husband wants to pay his parents’ mortgage, but it will come out of my income. How can I protect myself?

If your mother sells her house, and puts the money from the sale in a joint bank account with her granddaughter, there is no house to be inherited by you and your brothers. You can’t leave an asset in a will that no longer exists. If you persuaded your mother to sell the house, and put the money in a separate bank account so she could live with you and your wife, that would likely result in the kind of situation that leads people — your brothers — to write to the Moneyist.

You will also need to look at the effect of a house sale and/or ownership on your mother’s Medicaid coverage. You could set up a life estate where your mother has the right to live in the property and/or rent it out during her lifetime, and then the home transfers to you and your brothers upon her death, and does not go through probate. In addition, you may be liable for capital gains tax on the appreciation of the property from its original value.

You are entering into potentially perilous territory with these nascent plans. Such situations rarely end well when one family member unilaterally takes actions into their own hands. It more often than not benefits that family member over others. Hold a family meeting. Talk to your brothers about how they can help your mother during her last days, and how you can all as a family do what’s right and fair for everyone, while maintaining the letter and/or the spirit of her will.

<STRONG>You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com</STRONG> . Want to read more? Follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter and read more of his columns here.

The Moneyist: I’m a 54-year-old widow. My fiancé and I plan to renovate my home, but I want to leave it to my daughter. Should I marry?

<STRONG>Hello there, MarketWatchers. Check out <INTERNET URL="https://www.facebook.com/groups/moneyist/" LOCATION="EXTERNAL">the Moneyist private Facebook</INTERNET><PHRASE TYPE="COMPANY" SIGNIFICANCE="PASSING-MENTION"><SYMBOL COUNTRY="US" TICKER="FB"></SYMBOL></PHRASE> group where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.</STRONG>


Quentin Fottrell is MarketWatch's personal-finance editor and The Moneyist columnist for MarketWatch. You can follow him on Twitter @quantanamo.

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