Legal Question in Elder Law in Minnesota

financial incompetence

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?

Asked on 12/17/08, 7:37 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Steven Vatndal Law Office of Steven J. Vatndal

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

[email protected]

Read more
Answered on 12/18/08, 10:30 am

Related Questions & Answers

More Elder Law questions and answers in Minnesota