Dear Annie: My oldest sister has five grown children. Four live out of town, and one lives with his mother. My sister has never been able to stand up for herself very well. The out-of-town children have been trying to get her money. They have even somehow made the court send her a letter to appear for a 30-minute evaluation to see if she has dementia. My sister is fully functional and takes care of paying her bills, cleaning her home, cooking, etc. She's not crazy or dysfunctional; she's just who she is. The out-of-town children have put together a letter of character assassination against her other son and the rest of the family (myself included). I have never seen such a blatant bunch of lies and have never heard of a story worse than this when it comes to children trying to get a parents' money before they pass. Although, I did have a sister (we no longer have a relationship) who tried to get money from my mother as her inheritance before she died. The oldest child of my sister is the ringleader. He even went so far to say in the court letter that any and all expenses would be paid by his mother's investments.
I don't have any lawyer friends to ask questions to. What say you, Annie? — Bewildered in VT
Dear Bewildered: It sounds as though there are a lot of issues here that may look one way or the other depending on one's perspective. Meanwhile, caught in the middle is a real person — your sister. Perhaps it's best for her to loop in an objective assessment by meeting with a medical professional on her own. Given that this is now heading to court review and legal intervention, there will be various sides of the story being submitted, and retaining a lawyer to deliver your side may be prudent. Accusations tend to go hand in hand with escalation, but sensible alternatives remain for those that are less interested in "winning" and more interested in ensuring your sister is safe and secure.
Dear Annie: I lost my elderly mother recently. She had been in nursing home for a couple years. During this time, I was forced to make care decisions I never wanted to make and to sell her home of 60 years and most of her possessions. It was gut-wrenching and the most stressful time of my life. Someone I thought to be a very close friend did and said some very hurtful things during this time. I tried to talk to her about it, but she blamed me for everything so I walked away and we haven't spoken since. I realize now she was never the friend I thought she was. I'd like to tell your readers that if they have a friend dealing with elderly parents and they don't answer a text or return a call immediately, cut them some slack. They already feel guilty for decisions they have to make; they don't need more guilt from you. There's no happy ending to their story. Please show them some kindness and understanding at possibly the most difficult time of their life. — Missing Mom
Dear Missing Mom: I am so incredibly sorry for the loss of your beloved mother. I am glad that you found out this supposed friend's true colors and cut ties, though I'm sorry you had to find out at such a trying time in your life. My heart goes out to you. Thank you for writing.
"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to [email protected]