Mother in law needs long term care. She is married and all assets are in joint accounts. Her husband has severe dementia and their investment homes are in foreclosure, despite having the funds to pay mortgages. All bank accounts are joint. We obtained a elder law attorney but her advice is to petition for conservatorship and guardianship to the tune of $8-$10k in legal fees. Since we do not know the state of their finances we are scared to acquire that type of debt in addition to what her monthly care will cost until we can find out what her assets are. Are there any other options? Any emergency legal things we can do to at least find out what their assets are before we jump in to the conservatorship/guardianship? Our attorney said that power of attorney would not be an option because of her mental state.
I'm sorry about your situation.
If both your mother and father-in-law have dementia, then the Conservatorship would be the only option available (barring if you were already on their bank accounts, etc.).
I would add that if your parents do end up having some assets, most states allow the Guardianship/Conservatorship Petitioner to be reimbursed for their legal fees from the monies of the incapacitated person so long as the petition is brought in good faith.
If both spouses are unable to make decisions, and if no power of attorney was previously executed, guardianship/conservatorship is likely going to be unavoidable to gain control of their finances.
While our practice is limited to elder law / medicaid planning and personal injury, it is generally impossible to give a complete and thorough answer on a forum such as Avvo. This answer is for general and informational purposes only and should not be relied upon by itself. Every case is different and comes with its unique set of circumstances that need to be thoroughly evaluated and discussed over the phone or in person with an attorney. By answering this question, no attorney-client relationship is established.
Assuming both are no longer mentally competent, I agree that a guardianship/conservatorship are likely to be your only legal options. If Mom will voluntarily share her bank statements, etc with you, it might at least answer some of your questions.
Depending upon the exact facts, and whether you anticipate any opposition to your appointment vs. just needing the paperwork and jumping through the required hoops, you may well be able to find a qualified attorney for a bit less cost (maybe $6K-8K in attorneys fees) but that is highly dependent on the exact facts and needs as well as whether you are talking about being appointed to be the fiduciary for just one or both of them. Best of luck.
Nothing contained herein should be considered as legal advice for any specific situation and nothing herein is intended to create a lawyer-client relationship. Every case is very "fact-specific" and persons wishing legal advice on a specific matter should contact me or another attorney for an appointment to review their particular circumstances and to create a lawyer-client relationship.
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