When the Housekeeper Becomes the House-Keeper:
Grandma Gertrude and Walt are healthy octogenarians. They own their own home and are enjoying their retirement savings and pensions. They have two adult daughters, Christine and Tara. Gertrude and Walt execute mutual wills to ensure the survivor is taken care of and the daughters split the inheritance when the last parent dies. They are confident their affairs are in order should the unthinkable happen.
Besides their daughters, their neighbor Karen is always happy to help. For a small fee, she helps with shopping, bank runs, cleaning, and laundry. Christine and Tara lead busy lives with demanding jobs. They try to help their parents as much as they can but are happy a seemingly thoughtful neighbor keeps an eye on their elderly parents.
Unfortunately, one day, the unthinkable does happen and Walt tragically passes away in an accident. Christine and Tara receive the sad news from Karen, who is with their distraught mother. Karen helps the grieving family with funeral arrangements, making herself indispensable.
Following Walt’s death, Gertrude’s health takes a turn for the worse. She develops cancer and needs surgery. Karen proposes to become a daily housekeeper and caretaker, helping Gertrude with her daily tasks while she recovers. Christine and Tara are relieved that a friend of the family is willing to help out so that they do not have to hire an outside agency.
The Housekeeper becomes the house keeper
Soon thereafter, Karen announces that Gertrude needs to stay at a nursing home, temporarily, while she renovates the house for grandma. The renovations would be charged to Gertrudes’s checking account. The daughters initially agree as they know their mother had a difficult time navigating the outdated bathrooms. Karen promised a new, accessible floorplan.
Christine becomes suspicious when the process takes longer than expected and her mother starts to wonder when she could move back into her home. She attempts to investigate, but Karen stops talking to her. Then, the nursing home staff stop responding to her as well. Finally, Gertrude’s bank notifies her that she is no longer authorized to check on her mother’s account.
Unbeknownst to everyone, Karen had made herself Gertrude’s legal guardian and had taken over her affairs. She moved herself into Gertrude’s renovated home, took her car, and liquidated her assets. The accessible home she had promised Gertrude became a modern, open-concept floor plan she had intended to enjoy herself.
Gertrude passes away alone in the nursing home. After her death, an altered will naming Karen is found. The new will grants Karen a life estate, which means Karen gets to enjoy the house for as long as she lives. Christine finally hires an attorney to contest the will, but it is too late. Most of Gertrude’s property had already disappeared. The attorney advises Christine to settle with Karen. Karen purchases the house outright, with money she received from another elderly couple, at a deep discount.
The names have been changed but the story is real. Guardianship scams and other ways to separate vulnerable elderly people from their belongings are commonplace. Speak to a us today to protect yourself and your loved ones from scammers and predatory guardians.
Image credit: Andrea Piacquadio