ElderLaw News-The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C. — MD, VA, DC
ElderLaw News
ElderLaw News is a weekly e-newsletter that brings you reports of legal developments and other trends of vital interest to seniors and their advocates. This newsletter is brought to you by The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C., William S. Fralin, Esq., President., William S. Fralin, Esq., President.

Intra-Family Agreements

On Sunday, January 11, 2015, the Virginian-Pilot reported that a lawsuit had been filed in the Chesapeake Circuit Court in which a woman alleged that, despite investing substantial assets to build a mother-in-law suite in her daughter’s home, paying rent and utilities for more than four years and assisting with the cost of installing a backyard swimming pool, she was “kicked out” of her daughter and son-in-law’s home.

Although it appears from the article that the daughter and son-in-law have a different version of the chain of events that lead to the woman no longer living with them, the sheer fact that this matter has ended up in the courthouse is more important than the ultimate merits of this case. It is not unusual for family members to make informal agreements among themselves in connection with matters of all kinds. For instance, children take elderly parents into their homes to care for them when it becomes too difficult or expensive for the parents to remain in their own homes. Family members make loans to each other on all kinds of terms. However, at the time these arrangements are made, it is not uncommon for there to be misunderstandings about the exact terms of the agreements or about what to do if problems arise down the road. When problems and disagreements do arise, the stress on the family can fracture relationships and lead to a crisis that lands everyone in the last place they intended: court.

It is for this reason that The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C. stresses the importance of reducing these intra-family agreements to writing. By spending the time at the outset of the agreement to put into writing the exact terms of what each party will do, you lay the groundwork for a clear understanding of what matters the agreement covers and what matters it does not. For instance, if a parent is planning to move into a child’s home, the agreement should specify whether the parent is paying rent or merely paying a portion of the expenses of maintaining the home. The agreement should also cover the circumstances that would necessitate the parent leaving the home, such as ill health that necessitates assisted living or nursing home level of care, and the circumstances that might allow a return to the home. Depending on the specific circumstances of the family, other terms might be important to include in such agreements like transportation to and from medical appointments, provision of medical care in the home, cooking meals, etc. Families should also be cognizant of their own stresses and needs – if a parent needs constant care, the agreement may want to contemplate that the parent will pay for outside caregivers so that the family can take a vacation without worrying about the parent’s safety. Many times the mere act of writing down the agreement will spur the parties to ask each other the very important “what if” questions. Coming to an agreement about how these issues will be handled at the outset is preferable (and will likely lead to a better solution) than trying to deal with the issues in a crisis.

Although reducing an agreement to writing cannot guarantee that a lawsuit will not be the ultimate result, a well-thought-out agreement does provide a roadmap for navigating the choppy waters that occur in life. It can be the basis for a mediated settlement between the parties. It can also be used to diffuse concerns of other family members who question why Dad has made certain payments or is moving out of the house. In addition, written agreements can be used as a tool to assist people in qualifying for government benefits. The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C. is committed to assisting our clients and their families as they search for ways to do what families do best: care for each other.


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The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C.

The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C. is an elder law firm. We represent older persons, disabled persons, their families, and their advocates. The practice of elder law includes estate planning, estate and trust administration, powers of attorney, advance medical directives, titling of assets and designations of beneficiaries, guardianships, conservatorships, and public entitlements such as Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and SSI, disability planning, income tax planning and preparation, care management, and fiduciary services. For more information about The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C., please visit our website at http://www.chroniccareadvocacy.com.

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This newsletter is not intended as a substitute for legal counsel. While every precaution has been taken to make this newsletter accurate, we assume no responsibility for errors, omissions, or damages resulting from the use of the information in this newsletter. The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C. thanks the law firm of Hook Law Center for their input to this newsletter.

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