DM (81)'s house uninhabitable and she's in denial - HELP!!!(67 Posts)
Cross-posting between here and 30 days as I’m hoping to get more help.
Lots of background here, please bear with me as this will be VERY VERY LONG…My mother has always been “difficult” and with a massive tendency to deny or ignore anything awkward/unpleasant in the hope that if she does nothing, someone else will sort it out. Probably why, when her marriage broke down, she took herself home to live with my DGPs and dumped me and my DSis on them – DGPs did all the hard work of parenting, DM just lived in the same house but did her own thing. No matter how elderly DGPs got, they were always responsible for household bills and maintenance, DM not interested in responsibility.
Time went by. DGPs died 20 years ago and DM just went on living in their house. Technically the ownership of the house is still in dispute (they died intestate, DM has one brother she hasn’t spoken to in 40 years, he sent a few legal letters about house, DM ignored letters, he let things go as he is well off, she just went on living there.) House became dilapidated and now is getting to be a ruin. No central heating, for example, only electric heaters. DM only has pension but never did anything pro-active about getting help with house. Discouraged DSis and I from visiting. Only comes to see us if really pushed into it. Makes excuses why no one should visit her. Never phones us, we always have to phone her if we want contact. DM is now 81. Still drives (badly) but this is essential as ruinous house is in remote village with no shop.
DSis lives about 20 mins from her. DSis is single, lives in a tiny one-bedroomed flat, works in a high-pressure but not very well paid job in the NHS and is also studying for a degree in her spare time. DSis has done an awful lot for DM over the years, taking her out, doing shopping for her, helping her in lots of ways. Is allowed to pick DM up and drop her off from house but not go in.
I used to live 6/7 hours away from DM but now have moved only 90 minutes away. I am married with two DDs at secondary school and DH is undergoing treatment for Stage 4 bowel cancer which is incurable. Since we moved nearer I have also made efforts to see DM more and take her for days out but have not been allowed in house. She came to us for Christmas and I tried to get her to stay longer with us because I knew her house must be freezing in winter (I grew up there, so I know!) but she insisted on going home after 1 day. We constantly worried about the state of her house but she refused to engage in any discussion about moving house or the future.
Last week DM had a fall – Dsis had rung earlier to check that she had food, etc during the snowstorm and told her not to risk going out, but she typically decided to go out for a walk, fell and broke her ankle. DSis had to drive through a snowstorm to get her to A and E. Since then DM has been sleeping on sofa bed in DSis’s tiny flat insisting she wanted to get home although unable to do stairs and we know her house is freezing.
Today DM’s neighbour rang to say she could hear water gushing noises in the house. DSis went over and found a frozen pipe had burst and the whole of downstairs was at least an inch deep in water. Also on looking round found that the ceilings have collapsed in two of the upstairs rooms and there are big holes in the roof at the back so wet upstairs too. A window at the back of the house has fallen out and DM has put a sheet of plastic over it. DM now admits that the window and the ceilings happened ages ago but she didn’t mention it because she was “coping fine”. Of course she has no buildings or contents insurance!
DSis got a plumber friend to come round and turn the water off (no one could find the ancient stop cock) and rang me in tears saying she just couldn’t cope. DM is still insisting she will be able to go back and live there when her ankle is better. The house is completely uninhabitable and she has no money to fix it.Neither DSis or I have thousands spare to fix it. We both feel like everyone will think we are shit daughters for letting things get like this, but honestly she totally denies there is a problem and refuses to discuss any possible solutions. This is the first time anyone has been allowed in her house for years!
I am going to get her tomorrow to stay with me as DSis is at the end of her tether – DM has been very difficult during the week she has been staying with her. I have room in my house but lots of steep stairs and no bath/shower downstairs although I can temporarily fix her up a camp bed downstairs and there is a downstairs toilet. DH has just had a bit of a cancer relapse so this couldn’t have happened at a worse time.
Of course it is Saturday evening and no agencies are open till Monday now. I was thinking of ringing our local branch of Age UK for advice, and the council adult social care and housing lines. I don’t know how these things work, but who do I need to talk to? Ideally we want to find her somewhere to live. She can’t live in that house, it would be condemned. If we can agree with her NC brother to sell it, it will only be sold as a derelict fixer-upper (although it is in a prime tourist Second Homes area). She has other health problems as well as the broken ankle (some incontinence which she denies, a heart problem which she denies). She can’t drive at the moment. She can’t live permanently with either me or DSis as our homes are not suitable. She has no savings to pay for care. The worst thing is that she refuses to admit that there are any problems. What we need is someone (not me or DSis) who will just TELL her that she has to move somewhere else, accept health care. Apart from the total denial syndrome, she presents as having capacity. What do we do???? Help!!!
Don't want to read and run. Her Council's Social Work team would be my first call on Monday,
Good grief. I feel for you all.
Contact the authorities with a view to a care/nursing home.
The house can be sold at whatever price (but she’ll need to agree obviously) and that will go towards her care.
I’m sure she’s going to put up a fight but by involving others they can explain the reasons why she cannot continue like this.
Certainly social services need to be involved in some capacity. You need to use terms like 'vulnerable' and 'at risk' (use those words). Also, make it crystal clear that she can't live with either you or your dsis, nor return to her own house in that condition, nor can money be found to repair it.
I do think that if she is deemed as having capacity she can refuse help, and sometimes you actually need to step back and let a crisis happen. But what you've got going on there sounds a lot like a crisis already.
Thanks. It will certainly be a fight to get her to admit she can't live there. Am trying to avoid DH worrying about this as he has cancer to worry about. He and I also do quite a bit of caring for MIL who lives near us and has dementia. Too much stuff going on!!!
The house can be sold at whatever price
It can't if she doesn't own it. It's presumably still in the name of the OP's grandparents, and as well as the issue of intestacy (did anyone even get letters of administration?) there is potentially inheritance tax (yeah, it's a wreck now, but what was it worth at the point of death? What other assets were there?)
Is the brother still alive? Because if he's died, it going to be even more complex, as it will form part of his estate; his executors and beneficiaries will need to help sort the mess out.
In order to sell it, all of that's going to have to be sorted out. In order to get her care paid for by the state, they will need to assess her assets, which is going to be a spectacular mess. Sadly, this is one of those occasions when a sleeping dog - a house of uncertain ownership - is going to wake up and bite everyone in the vicinity.
I don't know if my uncle has died. I don't think so.I've never spoken to him as DM went NC with him when I was about 2. He lives in the same county as her. I found his wife on FB so I could get in touch although DM will hate it.
I probably need to go and talk to a solicitor about the house. The trouble will be getting a straight answer from DM about what letters were exchanged when DGPs died and what she knows about the house position.
Such a difficult situation, let alone all the other stuff you have going on.
Something you can do now is you can look online at the Land Registry to see who is registered as the owner or owners of the house. It costs a few pounds.
It might be worth selling the house at auction for speed.
Sounds like she has a history of depression perhaps?
There is some kind of mental health issue going on with her that you and your sister won't be able to deal with so yes let the professionals take over and rehouse her and deal with her MH issues in a professional capacity.
This is not something that you can be expected to deal with yourselves in your own homes, there is help out there for your DM.
TBH neither of you should have taken her home from the hospital and they would have arranged for her to go somewhere appropriate for her needs now that her house is uninhabitable.
As she has heart problems you should really get her looked at properly in hospital again and once she is admitted then explain her home is uninhabitable and they will look for somewhere for her to live that's appropriate for her needs.
I mean it could be that she is in the onset of dementia they can test her when she goes in to hospital asap re her heart
Occupational Therapy should go to her home to assess if its suitable for her, which they would have done if your sister hadn't taken her home and she had stayed overnight in the hospital, and they would have made the decision that it is not suitable and then found her suitable accommodation.
Hospitals are under pressure to get people discharged asap. If a patient is deemed to have capacity, then there is little investigation into a patient's circumstances before they're discharged.
The point this could have been prevented, is when your sister had a chance to talk to someone on the ward about occupational therapy "to prevent another fall" or to voice concern about the suitability of the house for someone frail and on crutches.
She's out of hospital, they've washed their hands of her and now it's up to social services and her GP.
As she is so neglectful of her health, does she have a GP?
If she hasn't been for some time, she may have been struck off the register.
As a previous poster has said, if probate hasn't been granted, then that's an additional headache.
You and/or your sister need to
Trace your uncle - alive might be easier to deal with than dead for probate purposes
Search for your DM's house and title here www.gov.uk/government/organisations/land-registry
Get onto social services and see if your DM has a GP. Make an appointment
Your sister needs to stop filling the gap - she needs to stress she can't cope and your DM's house is
1) Not entirely hers
Also stress your mother has no savings
Demand respite/convalescence help, repeatedly stressing your own problems and the unsuitability of both your homes for the needs of your elderly mother.
You and your sister need to present a united front and communicate, otherwise your sister is going to remain saddled with your DM's care.
Thanks for the suggestions. The trouble is, when my sister took her home with broken ankle, she didn't know how bad the house was inside as she hadn't been allowed in and the flood hadn't happened yet. DM wanted to go home then but DSis refused to take her because it was in the middle of the snowstorm and she wasn't prepared to try to drive out to DM's village with the roads so bad. DSis lives fairly near the hospital.
Various people upthread have mentioned capacity.
The OP and her sister should be careful. It is not true to say that once someone has been deemed incapable for one purpose they are incapable of everything that requires capacity; a dementia diagnosis doesn't necessarily mean that someone cannot sign a valid power of attorney, although you would be very wise to ensure a doctor was part of the process. But it makes it harder, and more contestable, and if there is lurking in the background either an elderly brother (who may themselves be subject to a power of attorney) or the elderly brother's widow or children, then it becomes yet more complex. So solving one problem by having her deemed incapable may hugely complicate matters, particularly if the brother or the brother's attorneys or executors or beneficiaries were to decide to be difficult.
And that all assumes the OP's mother is willing to sign a PoA, which by the sounds of it they aren't.
So I wouldn't be surprised if the only way to deal with this situation is going to be obtaining a deputyship from the Court of Protection. That is a vast amount of work, and one not to be taken on lightly.
Even if the issue of the twenty-year old unresolved intestate estate were resolved, the distribution of that estate is going to be difficult. You need legal advice now, but it's possible that the administrators (assume, arguendo, that the OP's mother and uncle would be OK with the OP and her sister getting letters of administration) have the right to sell the house and distribute the proceeds to the beneficiaries, which would solve the problem of who owns the house: it would be sold by the administrators of the OP's grandparents estate, hopefully the OP and her sister.
But then, the brother and his estate can quite legitimately demand half the value of the house in the condition it was in twenty years ago, plus interest, and it's not obvious who is on the hook for that. Selling assets of an estate for an undervalue having allowed them to decay to close to unsaleability is not a good thing to get involved in.
The usual advice is to run away from insolvent estates: in this case the OP may not feel able to do that, but needs good legal advice before getting involved in case the OP becomes personally liable.
OP, did you know that the house had uncertain ownership?
Yes, I knew. But she would never talk about it. Just clams up and walks away if you try to discuss something she doesn't want to talk about. I don't even know exactly what uncle did at time of DGM's death. I know DM refused to answer any letters about the house or discuss it. I was in my 20s at the time and living a long way away. I know that DM and her brother both attended DGM's funeral which was the first time they had seen each other in over 20 years. They blanked each other at the funeral and haven't been in contact since. I know he has adult children plus grandchildren.
It might be useful to know what happened. The following is a regular scenario on forums today:
"AIBU to leave my house to my daughter who lives with me, cutting out my son who is rich anyway and doesn't come round".
If that happened, and was what sparked the initial falling out, and then your grandparents didn't follow through (your grandparents' generation are often the first in their family to own significant assets such as houses, but didn't actually make wills) so the house was due to be split, you can imagine the further falling out when they actually died being quite dramatic. It sounds like your mother did a lot of things which her brother could see as exploiting your grandparents, and sadly - and complicatingly - you and your sister might be seen as part of that exploitation if they effectively raised you.
One route would be for you and your sister to get letters of administration for your grandparents, then for your uncle or his inheritors to execute a deed of variation leaving everything to your mother, go to probate with that, and then sell for whatever you can get. That assumes that (a) they don't need and have already written off the money and (b) there isn't the spectre of deprivation of assets lurking in the wings (if your uncle isn't as rich as you think and is in state-funded care or receiving benefits you are potentially fucked).
In fantasy-land, this sparks a charming reconciliation with your cousins, but the whole situation is fraught with problems. How much do you think the house is worth (a) in its current state and (b) if it had been properly maintained for the last twenty years? If your cousins were aggressive, the difference between those two amounts is the size of the court case.
Op, what a horrid situation for all of you.
Is your mum a bit of a hoarder too? Could you maybe get to her property while she is still at your sisters for a rummage around? All the letters from her db might still be there, and hopefully shed some light? Also any solicitor stuff from when your gp's died? Only if she ignores things, she possibly has been shoving letters in a draw for a long time, waiting for them to 'go away'.
And yes, try to get someone to go round to assess her house before she goes back.
Yes, shoving letters in drawers so that they go away is exactly what she does! She does it with bills too according to my sister. I have decided to try to get in touch with my uncle.
OK, so the plot thickens. (!!)
I went to the Land Registry website and paid to download a copy of the title registry to see if the house was still in my grandparents names. But all I got was a notice of "register of caution title" which says that the local council registered an interest in the estate in 2014. I cannot get anything which actually gives the names of the supposed current owner of the property, which is annoying as it cost me money.
Further questioning of DM about this followed. She now admits that in 2014 "or thereabouts" her neighbours complained to the council because they were worried one of her chimneys at the back was dangerous and might fall on their house. (DM thinks they were making a "silly fuss"). The council apparently came out and did some stabilising work on the chimney which took 1 day and got DM to sign something saying that when the house was eventually sold the council would get £2000 for doing the chimney repair. Oh joy. DM is extremely vague about what she signed but obviously this is what the "register of caution title" thing is about.
As far as house values go, I see that similar sized houses in the terrace have sold over the last few years for between £320,000 - £420,000 but they were all in excellent condition. The house next door was sold recently for £495,000 but that has been extended and is bigger and very posh inside. Mostly it is a row of terribly picturesque cottages in a very touristy area. Lots of them have been bought as second homes or retirement homes I think. God knows what the house of horrors is worth now. I think I need to see a lawyer!
I think I need to see a lawyer!
A good one, who deals with contentious probate.
It will be expensive. Sorry.
It's always nice to be able to give advice which is useful and which helps someone and they go away happy, but this isn't one of those occasions.
I wish you and your sister the best of luck, but this will be long, upsetting and expensive. Sorry.
Yep, you need a lawyer. Probably quite a specialist one.
There is a potential extra complication with regard to the council. If your understanding is complete (ie, Grandparents died intestate with two children, your mother remained in the house while estranged from your uncle but the estate was not administered) then it's not at all obvious that what your mother signed is legally valid anyway: she was effectively a tenant of the estate, not the owner.
Is the house old? In which case, it might not be registered. When did it last change hands for money? Did your grandparents buy it, or inherit from one of their parents? The past is another country, they do things differently there, and land conveyancing between the wars (when your grandparents might have acquired it) is the wild west.
Contentious probate on house which isn't registered, is in poor repair, has a caution against it and has party walls? Lawyers are simultaneously licking their lips while burying their heads in their hands. You also need the brother or his issue on-board with what you're doing.
Grandparents bought the house in 1963. Probably just in DGF's name.
The good news is that I have managed today through FB to make contact with one of my cousins and he has reacted very positively. He says he would like to help and also to help with mother. His partner works in adult social care and has offered to see what she can do to help! Apparently my uncle died two years ago and my uncle's wife won't talk about my mum or DGPs. But cousin says that neither or his siblings would be interested in getting nasty about the house and that they would like to help us sort things out. It turns out two of them live very near my sister. I know this will still be very complicated but at least if they are not inclined to be horrible over money that would be a big help. Now to make phone calls tomorrow and try to sort out where DM will live...
I don’t have anything meaningful to add to the excellent advice you’ve received above but just wanted to say that the whole situation sounds incredibly tough for you. So glad that your cousin has reacted positively and that his partner may be able to help on the social care aspect. Your DH must be your focus at this awful time so hopefully they will be able to help you and your sister find a way through.
Apparently my uncle died two years ago
So the people with the right to obtain letters of administration for your grandparents are any or all of you and your sister, and the cousins who are your uncle's children. Any of you can apply, and so long as the others agree you can divvy the work up however you want.
Who died first, your grandmother or your grandfather? If the house was in your grandfather's sole name it might matter, although the key thing is to make sure it's conveyanced to your mother.
Where you need a lawyer is to make sure that the right people sign deeds of variation to avoid leaving more loose ends. The grandparents' estate flows to the people who would have been beneficiaries in intestacy at the point of the last grandparent's death, so the brother's widow is potentially involved. The widow of a child isn't a beneficiary of an intestate estate normally, but here you need to reach back to who was alive 20 years ago and who their estates went to, rather than the usual intestacy rules. So I suspect that your aunt's opinion matters, and there is also a potential deprivation of assets issue.
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