My mother is in her late 80s and has been living with the same gentleman for the last 11 years. He’s a good companion and she’s happy with him, although he does have a child who disrupts and upsets them often, always with a financial crisis.
My mother owns the condo they live in and has no mortgage on it. She also has just inherited some money from her mother, so she’s well off financially. He has little or no money, and that is not a problem to her or me. I’m happy she has companionship.
I’m an only child, very close with my mother, and want whatever she wants to make her happy. She does have a will and trust, but has not said what happens if she dies before him. He’s not in the will. Everything goes to me. I’ve asked her several times what would happen if she died before him, in terms of the condo, and she always says don’t worry, he’s eight years older. And she ends the discussion there.
My worry is what happens if she does die first? Then the condo is mine. I’m happy to have him live there, but would he pay me rent? I don’t want to have to pay the maintenance and taxes while he lives there for free. But how could I throw this nice old man out if he can’t pay rent? I’m a single working mother with teenagers. I’m afraid of what could happen. Meg’s solution:
There are laws in Florida that would help guide your actions, but without anything in writing from your mother, it’d be up to you to support him or evict him if he didn’t want to pay rent or move out. There are no laws, however, that govern the heart, and that should trump everything, if possible. That’s where you need to try, in respect for this long term relationship, to help her face this “what if” for your sake if nothing else.
Since you’re so close, tell her there’s something personal you need help with, and invite her to a quiet lunch where you two can really talk. If it was my mother, we’d order a Bloody Mary with lunch if a heavy discussion was to follow. This is pretty heavy.
Talk honestly of your concerns. Let her know you understand she doesn’t want to deal with this issue, but it could fall on your shoulders and the thought makes you nervous. What would she want in terms of the condo for him? Anything would be fine, and you’ll happily follow her wishes. But you need to know what they are.
Here are some discussion points to help with the dialogue:
At his age, he can’t live alone. He’ll need help. Does he have enough income to be able to afford the condo expenses and round the clock care? Does he have a long term care policy?
He’d be vulnerable to his needy child who could move in. Would that be OK with her? With him?
And of course the casserole parade (or brisket brigade) would commence immediately, with many eager women coming to help the poor widower. Would it be OK with her if another woman moved in with him? Would she want you to support that?
Another Bloody Mary, please.
A good solution for all may be an adult congregate care facility, where he’d have meals, help and companionship. But what if he doesn’t want that? It’s all worthy of discussing, because it’s not fair to potentially leave you with a tenant and no directions.
Hopefully you can persuade you mother to meet with her attorney who can memorialize her wishes in documents to help get this monkey off your back. How great if she could discuss this “just in case” scenario at home, but in case that’s not possible, she can always arrange to leave a gift or trust to give him some income if she wishes to help care for him after she’s gone.
If it’s spelled out by her, then you’d just be following directions, should that time arise, and hopefully not be roiling in confrontations. I’m sure your mother will want to protect you. If all else fails, please seek advice from your own estate lawyer.
That’s where this will eventually end up anyway. Got a dilemma? Email askmeg@ meg green .com. Meg Green, CFP, is a wealth manager with offices in Aventura. Her Money Dilemmas column runs monthly in The Miami Herald.