My divorced parents have an
irrevocable life estate on several
hundred acres of farm property for
which they each get a lump sum
twice a year. My mother manages to
live within her means with no
problem, but my dad spends his lump
sum within 1-2 months and comes
to each kid begging for money. We
know that he gambles and drinks and
will never be honest when we ask
him to disclose where his finances
are spent. What can we do?
1 Answer from Attorneys
Re: financial incompetence
When you say "irrevocable", I infer that this is a trust that owns the life estate and your father is a beneficiary of the trust. The alternative is that he directly owns the life estate (in which case "irrevocable" is a word that wouldn't be used).
If there is a trust, first read carefully the discretion given to the trustee in making payments to your father. Sometimes, the trustee is allowed to make payments "for the benefit of" the beneficiary, which may allow the trustee to directly pay your father's living expenses, rather than passing the money through him.
If he must directly recieve the money (whether because the trust requires it or because he direcly owns a life estate), you have few options. If you believe that he is being taken advantage of, you can discuss with a county social worker whether he is a vulnerable adult in need of protection. If the county is not willing or able to become involved, you can seek an involuntary conservatorship. This can be an expensive and emotionally difficult process with uncertain results if your father opposes it.
This all assumes that your father is completely unwilling to cooperate. Maybe the local AA chapter could give you some ideas on persuading him to move a little toward fixing his life.
I am very sympathetic to your situation. If you have further questions, e-mail me directly at
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