My father is in his 70’s, in bad health, physically disabled, with somewhat impaired cognition. He recently hired his tenant do repairs on the property. The tenant has not finished most of the repairs, has taken advantage of my father’s memory by charging him multiple times for the same service, and has sent my father massive bills for services not related to the repairs. The tenant had my father write the checks out to a different person. He also seems to have a long criminal record from the background check that I performed. Unfortunately, my father did not write out contracts for most of the repairs, but he added memo descriptions to many of the checks. The tenant is also behind on rent but cannot be evicted due to Covid. I am primarily concerned with recouping as much of the money paid for repairs as possible. I would like to know the best legal course of action/strategy for this purpose. Should my father sue him for breach of contract, fraud, file a police report? Should I file a police report for elder abuse? Should we try to get him to sign contracts for the previous work?
Is there a course of action that gives my father a decent chance to recoup at least some of the money?
ANSWER BY MARGARET CROSS-BELIVEAU:
You need to file a police report as well as report this as Elder Abuse to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs. While recovering the $20,000 is extremely important, you also need to stop and think how to prevent this from happening in the future. Someone needs to oversee his financial decisions. His impaired cognitive ability may prevent him from executing a power of attorney. A power of attorney will allow a fiduciary to oversee his decisions, but will not be strong enough to stop him from writing out checks to scammers. You may need to file for a conservatorship. As a conservator, the fiduciary is placed on the bank account and the money is used for him. The court will have to rule that your father is unable to manage his financial affairs.
Once I had a client who had a brain injury. While he could hold down a menial job, he had trouble understanding that people would take advantage of him. He would co-sign loans for people and they would default. As he at that time was deemed competent, he was legally responsible for the loan as well. We had to file a conservatorship for him to protect him.
You should consult with an elder law attorney.
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Legal Disclaimer: Please note that this answer does not constitute legal advice, and should not be relied on since each situation is fact specific, and it is impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue. This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship. A lawyer experienced in the subject area and licensed to practice in the jurisdiction should be consulted for legal advice.
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