Watch your account balances to see if someone else is moving your money around or using it for themselves

By James Ward

James Ward

Nice truck, dad!

Where’s your money? Who has control of the money? Are you watching it? Is it disappearing?

Sometimes, brothers and sisters don’t love each other, and sometimes, one seems a little greedier than the others. Sometimes they even fight with each other! Ha! Can you believe that? Well, it happens. We see it all the time.

A man came to see me for help with his estate plan. He was in his early 80s and seemed a little confused on several things. His adult son had brought him and stayed outside the office in a new, red truck.

The elder gentleman told me that it was his own truck. Yes, his son had bought it for him.

The son had put his own name on the title along with the father’s name because the father could no longer drive, but the father told me that the truck really belonged to the father.

The father was proud to be the owner of this great, new truck, and also proud that his son had stepped up to buy the truck for the father.

Why was the father in to see me? Well, he wanted to draft paperwork to give his house to his son because the son was so generous in buying the new truck for the father. Really? One kid buys you a truck so then you give him the house? Since the value of the truck was probably less than 10 percent of the value of the house, it didn’t seem like an even deal.

What about the man’s other children? He told me that none of the other children had bought him anything, and that was why he wanted the house to go to this son who had purchased the new truck as a gift for him.

I didn’t take the man on as a client because things just didn’t seem right, and because he wasn’t clear about several things during our discussion.

Is that the end of the story? Not quite.

About a month later, one of the man’s adult daughters called me about filing a complaint against her brother. It seemed that the brother had his name added to his father’s account and then took the father’s money to buy the truck and put it in the name of the father and the son. Ha! What the heck?

The son had used his father’s own money to buy the father a new truck, and then told the father that it was a gift from the son, and then the father wanted to reciprocate by giving his house to the son. Such a deal!

Yes, the father was confused. He didn’t realize that the truck was not a generous gift from his beloved son, but was a new truck that was purchased with the father’s own money and presented to the father as a gift from a generous son.

I don’t know what finally happened. I wasn’t willing to let the father sign any legal documents, and they didn’t come back.

But how did the son gain access to his father’s bank accounts in the first place? Bank employees are trained to catch what appears to be elder financial abuse or undue influence, but they don’t always catch it. Maybe the son had been added to the accounts months or years earlier when the father could make good decisions, and now the son was using the father’s money to persuade the father that the family home should be left only to the “good son.”

Be careful about who you add to your accounts, and watch your account balances to see if someone else is moving your money around or using it for themselves.