My grandma signed this logging contract without anyones knowledge . Usually my dad and aunt would be informed before a decision like this would be made .
One needs to have capacity to enter into a contract. Depending on how the logging company solicited, (and the fine print of the contract itself), she may be entitled to an automatic right to rescission. If they are not willing to cooperate, you will need an attorney to file immediate actions in the court before they destroy the land.
The bigger issue, however, is that your grandmother needs to sit down with an elder law/estate planning attorney to draft a financial power of attorney, (and likely other documents) to prevent this sort of thing from happening in the future.
She, herself, can rescind the contract within three days if it was signed in her home. Further, if she is has a disorder that leaves her incapable of understanding the nature of the contract, then it can be rescinded for lack of competency/capacity. If ythe disorder is undiagnosed, it can still be rescinded but you will need to establish evidence that , at the time she signed the contract, she was not capable of making an informed decision. If someone else had a power of attorney, the contract might be voided without their consent. You will probably need to discuss this with an attorney knowledgeable in contracts and also consult with an elder law attorney to see what is in your Aunt’s long term best interests. Feel free to contact my ofice concerning the contract aspects of this issue, my direct number is 610-565-7050 ext 23.
Stew Crawford, Jr., Esq.
Crawford Law Firm
A Full Service Law Firm Serving New Jersey & Pennsylvania
223 North Monroe Street
Media, Pennsylvania 19063 (Philadelphia Area)
I think Mr. Frederick's advice is sound. Your grandmother enjoys a legal presumption of capacity until a court determines that she is incapacitated. If she has dementia, she may not have the capacity to enter into contracts, but you will need a court to make that determination.
If she lacks capacity, she may be able to rely on agents named in a power of attorney (your question suggests your father and aunt may be named as her agents), but if there's no power of attorney in place, she may not have the capacity to sign one now. In that case a guardianship may be appropriate.
I suggest your family work toward getting your grandmother diagnosed and her capacity assessed. Then meet with an elder law attorney in your area to discuss options. Whether you can get all that done before the logging operations start remains to be seen, but I wouldn't waste time if I were you. Invalidating contract could prove to be very difficult and expensive. You'll need to decide if the cost of fighting it is justified. It's certainly possible the timbering will not produce permanent damage to the land and will help your grandmother financially. In that case, it's better to focus your energy on making sure your grandmother has prepared for future incapacity or if she's already incapacitated that steps are taken to protect her going forward.
While I agree with my colleagues, looking at this as an outsider, and assuming you are beyond the 3 day rescission period, I do not think that YOU can do anything. Your grandmother is the apparent owner of the property and owes nobody any notice or right to consent. It is possible that this is a good deal for her, as she may need the money.
Your summary highlights other issues, however. If your grandmother is starting to make questionable decisions, it is very important to get her diagnosed, as well as to make sure that her estate planning is all in order. You could have larger issues than logging if she becomes incapacitated and none of this has been taken care of. Your dad and aunt should discuss this with her and persuade her to see her attorney and then her doctor.
There may well be an expeditious way to address this situation, IF the facts and an expert medical opinion support the existence and serious decline of your grandmother's cognitive and executive function over time. A seasoned elder lawyer with a background in Orphans Court incapacity work should be consulted at once.
In the past, I have been involved in case in which - where longstanding serious cognitive decline has been established to the Court's satisfaction - a judge has acted to void transfers of property, unfavorable contracts in which a third party took undue advantage of the senior's impairment, etc. However, I cannot overemphasize how important it is for you to consult an experienced elder law with a specific background in Orphans Court incapacity work at once.
I can recommend - without hesitation - an elder lawyer named Kemp Scales, with offices in Erie and Titusville. He is an acknowledged PA expert in this area of the law and had presented countless seminars for the Pennsylvania Bar Institute on the topic. He may be reached through the contact info on his website.
People can have a little dementia and still be competent to sign a contract. If you strongly feel she didnt have capacity to sign that contract. Get her to a doctor immediately and have him do a geriatric assessment. If he feels she wasnt competent when she signed the contract, he can issue a letter stating so, which can help you rescind the contract.
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