I am very worried about my widowed mother who is in her mid-eighties and lives on her own in a doorman building in New York City. My mother inherited a great deal of money when my father died a few years ago. She is not a businesswoman and doesn’t know how to handle her wealth. Although she has lawyers, investment bankers and advisers who deal with her portfolio, she won’t always do as they say but listens instead to a number of unsavory men who’ve suddenly come out of the woodwork to court her. Mom is very prone to flattery. There is one man in particular who worries me. This man, who claims he’s an important art dealer, takes her out to dinner every week and tells her she’s smart and beautiful. For this reason she has named him executor of her will. She will do anything for this man and now she has agreed to take him on a trip to Paris as her companion. If I warn her that this man (who’s maybe sixty-five) is up to no good, she grows extremely angry and won’t talk to me. I’m really anxious about this situation. My mother is not in the best of health and I fear for her well-being alone with the guy in Paris. On the other hand, she is still of somewhat sound judgment so I’m not sure what I can do legally to protect her. Can you please give me some advice on the situation?
Dear Only Daughter,
Yeah, this is a tricky one. If you have siblings and/or close family friends, it would be good to put together an action plan. Your mother needs to understand that inherited wealth is a big responsibility that is best dealt with by trusted corporate entities, such as a bank or fiduciary institution that knows exactly how to protect her and her assets. My best advice would be for you to retain an estate lawyer who is particularly good with elderly clients and have him/her explain to your mother in simple terms what can happen with an untrustworthy executor — that, since there is no accounting until the end of the process, the executor can literally walk away with half the estate. This is unfair to her heirs and the memory of her husband. Find other ways to shower your mom with attention. She’s lonely and the crooks need to go.