Lubbock, TX asked in Elder Law for Texas

Q: How do we handle financial abuse of a 100 yr old grandmother with dementia? No one will help us.

The son of my grandmother passed away. She was living in his house with his wife who constantly wanted her gone. Her other daughter and son have been trying to get her out of the house since he passed. They will not let us see or talk to her. When they found out that if we took her we would take possession of her bank accounts and retirement they wanted to keep her. We have all believed for a long time that the grandson was taking money from her but we can't prove it without access to her bank account. The police went by for a wellness check and asked her what the date was and she couldn't tell them and then asked if she wanted to stay there and she said yes. She does not know what is going on. The grandson has drugs in the home, has guns and is very unstable. The sheriffs dept won't help they said it is out of their jurisdiction. We are needing help with all of this and no one will do it. We are all at least 6 hours away which makes the issue more desperate.

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1 Lawyer Answer
Terry Lynn Garrett
Terry Lynn Garrett
  • Elder Law Lawyer
  • Austin, TX
  • Licensed in Texas

A: Elder abuse and exploitation can be reported online to Adult Protective Services, which has the ability to access bank records without a subpoena.

If the son has been granted a Durable Power of Attorney by your grandmother, any beneficiary under her Will, any heir if she does not have a Will or anyone who can convince the Court that they have a genuine interest in your grandmother's well being can ask the Court to examine the son's conduct under that Durable Power of Attorney.

If your mother's dementia has progressed to the point that you think she lacks legal capacity to provide for her own food, shelter or medical care or to manage her own finances, you or her other daughter can apply to the Court for appointment as her guardian. The guardian of the person has the right to determine where the person under guardianship lives and make medical decisions for her. The guardian of the estate has the right to manage her finances, subject to Court supervision.

To apply, you must be represented by an Approved Guardianship Attorney. You can get a list from the local probate court or on the website of the State Bar of Texas.

Hearings in many counties are now by internet so the fact that you are six hours away should not pose a problem. But there are two difficulties.

First, the Application must be accompanied by a Physician's Certificate of Medical Examination. It does not appear that the grandson would take his grandmother to the doctor or allow an examination by Zoom. The applicant could apply for a court order. This would all take time.

Second, obtaining a guardianship costs money. While the application costs would be reimbursable from your grandmother's estate, if her grandson has spent them all that becomes theoretically reimbursable. You also may not have money to apply and yet may not qualify for a waiver of court fees or pro bono assistance. Do check with Volunteer Legal Services in your area and, if you do not qualify, ask Lawyer Referral Services in your area if there is an Approved Guardianship Attorney who participates in their "modest means" program. If neither of these avenues work, you may be able to pay by credit card. If none of this works, you can submit a Court-Initiated Guardianship Information Letter, asking the Court to look into, or to appoint a guardian ad litem to look into, the situation. This, too, takes time.

While this isn't an easy road, at the end of the day, you may be glad that you walked it.

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