Elder Law: Real Estate Fraud

I recently read an article in Lawyers USA titled "'Friends' cheat elderly couple out of dead son's farm." The title of the article caught my attention right away for reasons my immediate and extended family might appreciate. As I read the article, the facts seemed eerily similar to a situation we were forced to deal with in our family a few years back. The facts stated in the article are as follows:

David Lenstrom (presumably in his 40s) owned a farm in Wisconsin valued at approximately $800,000. He had two friends Matthew and Catherine Simpson (husband and wife). David died of prostate cancer in December, 2001, leaving his farm to his elderly parents. When David died, Catherine Simpson quit her job to "spend time with" her deceased friend's aging parents. The article states that the Simpsons then proceeded to "isolate the elderly couple" from family and other friends.

In about 2005, David's elderly father found out that he too had prostate cancer and would probably soon pass away. The Simpsons learned of David's father's condition and convinced him to sell them the farm for $200,000 (about 1/4 the real value of the farm). In exchange for the reduced price of the farm, the Simpsons promised to "do 'everything in [their] power to maintain the quality of [David's parents'] lives on the farm' and that the land sale contract would be null and void if they could not do so." Imagine the elderly parents trying to enforce that provision in court.

David's elderly father (concerned about his aging wife upon his passing) sold the farm to the Simpsons. Fortunately, concerned family members became involved, hired an Elder Law attorney and sued the Simpsons to reverse the transaction. The court agreed with the concerned family members, reversed the transaction concluding that the Simpsons "'ingratiated' themselves to [the] elderly couple in order to persuade them to give away their farm." Justice seems to have prevailed.

Act Immediately
If you encounter circumstances similar to those above, find an Elder Law attorney immediately. I can say this based on personal experience. While in my first year of law school my Contracts professor related an account similar to the one above. The account reminded me of a situation our family was then going through with one of our elderly family members.

Upon hearing my professor's account, I approached the professor and he gave me the name of an Elder Law attorney. I told him I would rather wait until I graduated and handle the case myself. He discouraged this, reciting the adage about the person who represents himself having a fool for a client. He also reminded me that the statute of limitations might run before I was out of law school. I bought the latter argument.

A week later our family contacted the Elder Law attorney, suit was filed and our family won. As it turned out, had we waited about 3 more months to file suit the statute of limitations would have run. Because we acted when we did justice also prevailed in our case.

Of course, if you are the guy stealing property from the elderly you may disagree with my take on justice prevailing. If so, "[insert expletive here] you!" and don't come back to my blog you thief.

You may also be interested in my article on Adverse Possession.
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