Author Topic: How should I approach this?  (Read 3326 times)


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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How should I approach this?
« on: June 27, 2014, 09:27:36 AM »
I have a tendency to write a lot more than is needed, so I will do my best to keep this short.

My father has "recovered" from a brain tumor which was diagnosed nearly 20 years ago. Before this occurred he was thriving financially with several successful businesses, real estate, and paper assets/investments. Since then he has struggled cognitively and socially. His businesses have been shelved (or he was pushed out of them) and his remaining assets are all carrying several liens or various types of bad debt.

He is in significant tax debt, having not filed or paid his income taxes in ~15 years. The last tax bill he received (from the state revenue service) was up to $150k (including interest and penalties)
He owes several attorneys money from his divorce (post surgery) and other dealings which have accrued significant interest ~$50K
He still owns several rental houses in the area, however almost none of them are occupied with tenants and it would take a non-trivial amount of capital to get many of them up to code.
He also owns large parcels of commercial and residential real estate (which have no infrastructure).

All of his properties have several liens of varying amounts/types. The land, houses, vehicles, etc. I would estimate have a total value of around $1.2million - far exceeding his obligations.
It's noteworthy to state that he has a strong paranoia of just about anyone: buyers, government, even his own family.
He makes about $15k/year between SS and doing odd jobs and it is unlikely that he will be capable of earning any more income than this per year. In other words he is disabled, old, and won't be able to get a "normal" job. I don't believe he is able to make sound decisions about his health, finances, or well-being. He has told me several times over the past year that he feels paralyzed to do anything. However this is not the first time he's asked for help, and every time we've tried to help he feels threatened and backs out of agreements, makes excuses, or makes threadbare, non-starter comments like "just sell it all for $100 and I'll leave! You don't understand the value of anything!" etc

My question is this: Where do I start? How can I seek help and guidance?
I own some real estate of my own but cannot (and will not) leverage it at this time. I make about $80K/year working full time and own several apartments.
This problem has grown so much, and he is so disorganized - completely unable to help himself at this point. I am just totally overwhelmed on how to seek help and am not sure if I can even get him to allow that help to have a real material effect on things.
I am frustrated beyond measure because the problem seems so simple:
1. Sell or refinance enough property to pay off bad debt. (<--- I just can't make him see this one)
2. Get paying tenants in properties.
3. Pay down newly refinanced debt immediately.

Any help is really, truly appreciated. Thanks for reading.


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: How should I approach this?
« Reply #1 on: June 27, 2014, 11:13:24 AM »
I believe you can get power of attorney if you can prove that the brain tumor has made him unable to make competent decisions. You would then be able to make all the financial decisions that are necessary to fix the situation. (Caveat: I am not a lawyer.)

However, this would probably also result in the severing of your father/son relationship, which I'm sure you do not want.

So, other than the nuclear option above, I can say only that I sympathize. It must be hard to see this sort of change in personality and circumstance.


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: How should I approach this?
« Reply #2 on: June 27, 2014, 01:30:37 PM »
Upon reading your reply (and subsequently reading my post) I realized that I am posting here to vent my frustrations.
Claiming someone as unfit to handle their own affairs is something I have never seriously considered for the exact reason you mention - its the nuclear option. However I have watched this man sabotage nearly all of his relationships since his illness and ours hasn't been great either. I have other siblings who want little to do with this matter. That's fine, they have their reasons, but in my state you need to have much of the family on board to make a decision like this.

I wish I could say it just didn't bother me and I could ignore the urgent phone calls begging for gas/food money. But it bothers me. It bothers me to see someone flush their financial life down the toilet and do little to stop it. It frustrates me that I have given so much of my time and advice and have it met with non-action at best.


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Re: How should I approach this?
« Reply #3 on: June 27, 2014, 01:38:56 PM »

It sounds like there are two core problems here: how to assist your father's estate and whether he is competent to run his own affairs.
and unfortunately my advice is the same for both issues; consult an attorney.  One should specialize in bankruptcy and structured settlements, the other on power of attorney and people with deminished capacities.

best of luck to you - this is an awful situation to be in.


  • Pencil Stache
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Re: How should I approach this?
« Reply #4 on: June 27, 2014, 05:42:37 PM »
I am so sorry.  I have been there/done that and it was hard.  It's been a couple years and still causes me grief.  The paranoia especially was confusing and it was so hard to watch.
I recommend an oxygen mask approach:
First find someone reliable and outside family to lean on and vent to - trusted friend,  clergy, or counselor.  This may be a long haul.  A good outside confidant will be important.

Second I also recommend getting a good lawyer,  preferably one with training in geriatric law.  But realize that you may not be able to do much if he's still capable of working.  The nuclear approach may not be applicable yet.

Third, talk with someone clinical (hopefully his Dr.) about his condition.  The doc may not be able to discuss particulars with you but he should listen to your concerns. In our state we have elder care groups.  They may be able to give you strategies on dealing with his particular condition - for instance some types of dementia are worse in the evening.  You may be able to plan better to get better results.

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Re: How should I approach this?
« Reply #5 on: June 28, 2014, 04:16:17 AM »
It sounds as though your father's mental condition is not going to change for the better.  It is hard, but I think you need to accept that you can't change it.  That likely also means that he is incapable of changing his behaviour.  I'm sorry, but I think at this point you need to stop trying to change his behaviour: trying is having no effect other than to cause you grief when it doesn't work.  It also sounds as though his condition is not bad enough for a court to consider him incompetent (bad financial management is not enough, otherwise half the country would be subject to court guardianship.

If you did start to get his financial affairs in order, it sounds as though most of the benefit would go to the IRS, his divorce lawyers and his other debtors.  Frankly, for the effort involved, I doubt it is worth it.  So I would just leave things as they are: no lawyers, no property management, no debt payoff.  He will probably die with debts worth more than his assets, so there will be no inheritance, but sometimes that's how things work out.  Sorry.

Change might come if it gets to the stage where he is unable to look after himself in the most minimal way and the government puts him into a nursing home/senior living facility for his own safety (and probably against his will).  At that point, it could be possible to get a power of attorney and start sorting things out.  But I would have to say: you have your own full time job and real estate investments to manage, and possibly a family too: sorting out your father's estate should come below all of these in your list of priorities.

The most pressing issue is the phone calls you get from him begging for gas and food money.  If he really can't manage the basics on what he currently earns, I would suggest that either you alone, or you with any of your family you can get to agree, arrange for him to have access to a regular small sum to supplement his income (25$ a week?), so that he doesn't starve.

You are in a hard place.  But I am sure that if you look back at your pre-brain tumour father, he would be saying that he would not want his current situation to drag his children down further than they can bear.