Can we protect dad from his money-hungry girlfriend?

Dear Benny,

My father is in his mid-80s, and my mother passed away over a decade ago. He began dating a woman at the age of ten, and then she moved in with him, although they were not married. She has a house nearby, but his house is more convenient because it is located on one floor and he paid for everything.

Earlier this year, his health issues made his transfer to a nursing home a necessity. This woman has now made a deal with my father that she can stay in his house after his death. There are obviously terms that you don’t agree to in the contract his lawyer put in, but as far as I know, Dad will give in to her demands.

A condition prevents her unemployed grandson, who has a history of theft and drug abuse, from spending time at my father’s house. My father has large collections of antiques and collectibles that can easily disappear. My father also said to me and my brothers that if any quarrel arose, he would cut them off at will.

We worry that this arrangement will really complicate all of our lives when Dad dies. He didn’t think about the possibilities, like what if you hooked up with someone else and that person moved in?

I appreciate his money being his money, but this extended living arrangement really got us steamy. Communication has never been good in our family. It looks like she’s had a financial interest in him the whole time and we’re now stuck with her, even after his death. Any advice on how to think about this, protect the family’s assets, and move forward?

Troubled daughter

dear sad,

Is your primary concern not fulfilling your father’s final wishes? Or are you more worried about still having to deal with Dad’s girlfriend when he’s gone? The way you put things makes it look like the last.

Your father’s friend is in her eighties. She lived in his house for several years. I think your father is behaving rationally. You may not like it, but it has been an important part of his life for a decade. Understandably, he doesn’t want to uproot it when he dies.

Having said that, if you haven’t informed your father of your concerns, you need to – tactfully. This conversation should be about your father and how you can best fulfill his wishes. (repeats, for him desires.) Don’t accuse his girlfriend of being after his money. Don’t suggest that she will be ready to beat another person the moment they die. Alternatively, you can ask your dad how he would feel if his girlfriend was having another relationship, knowing that this person might stay at home. Just because he hasn’t shared his thoughts and feelings with you doesn’t necessarily mean he hasn’t thought about them or discussed them with his attorney.

It also makes sense to ensure that you are responsible for household related expenses while your father’s girlfriend is still living there. It looks like your father has put the house into lifelong ownership. It is a common tool for estate planning when someone wants to allow another person to live in their home after their death without passing it on to them. In these arrangements, the tenant is usually responsible for these costs.

As far as your dad’s collectibles and antiques go, there’s no reason these items should stay home. He can leave it to you, your brothers or anyone else by his will or trust. Keep in mind that collectibles are often more valuable to collectors than they are in the market. If there’s a particular item you want, all you have to do is ask your dad about it and explain why you keep it so much may be more effective than pissing him off about his girlfriend’s noble grandson.

However, I suspect that your father may be well aware of your concerns. Communication is not just about making yourself heard. It requires listening, even if you don’t like the answers you get.

There are plenty of situations where family members have good reason to worry that an older loved one is being manipulated by their significant other. This doesn’t sound like one of those times. It seems your father is still of a sound mind and wants to find his mate long after he’s gone. He may still need to work out some details, but luckily, he has a lawyer.

Due to your dad’s age and health issues, he may not have much time left. Please heed his warning and don’t make this controversial. He deserves peace, not quarrel.

Robin Hartell is a certified financial planner and senior writer for The Penny Hoarder. Send your tough financial questions to [email protected].

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