The Grifter and the Amputee

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Dear Robin:

My husband’s 62 year old brother Bill got engage two years ago.  At first we were really happy for him because of he was so happy.  Then we learned within 2 months of being engaged his fiancé Vicky accepted over $60,000 worth of jewelry but kept making excuses why they couldn’t set a date.  He had not been in the best of health due to diabetes.

Fast forward… This past summer he had been battling with a wound on his foot which eventually led to his having his lower leg amputated. He informed us that Vicky asked him to change his medical power of attorney from my husband to her.

My husband discovered she was trying to obtaining a marriage license in order that they be married in hospital chapel before he was released (that didn’t happen). She also got the doctor to certify that Bill was of sound mind and they immediately married upon his release from the hospital and bought a huge house.

We are very concerned that he is being taken advantage of and wonder if there is any action we can take to protect my husband’s brother, who may be a victim of neglect but does not have a clue that he is. We feel he is happy, even if it is an illusion, but just want him to have good care.

This woman has a history of doing this to other people in her family. We need advice on if there is anything we can do to prevent the train wreck from happening.

-Laura

Dear Laura:

I had so many questions for you but you aren’t responding to my emails, so please consider this advice somewhat truncated and delivered in a vacuum due to your disappearance.

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The most important questions I have for you are related to your allegation of neglect and your fear he may be taken advantage of.

Do you visit Bill on a regular basis?  If so, what is his mental state?  Is he coherent? What is his physical state?  What about his surroundings – are things clean and orderly and is he being fed a healthy diet?  Does he have children?  Are they concerned as well?  Is Vicky around when you visit, or is she MIA and off at the fancy hotel bar identifying her next target?

I don’t even know if Bill is incapacitated as your letter suggests.  If his physical and mental health are generally good and he is a happy and active uniped, you don’t have a leg to stand on if your goal is to initiate some sort of legal proceeding to “protect” him.

Let’s assume two vastly different scenarios since you couldn’t be bothered to get back to me.  Please be aware you are on my shit list because you made me do twice as much work today as I would have had to do with more information.

Scenario One: Bill is neglected, abused, and/or being financially taken advantage of.

If Bill is incapacitated and not receiving good care and possibly the victim of financial abuse, you can likely seek help by filing a claim of elder abuse in court.  Here in Oregon, you can file a petition for a restraining order to prevent the abuse of an elderly or disabled person.

While I believe the age defining “elderly” is 65 in Oregon (calm down, Mr. Patience and Understanding, you are anything but and certainly won’t be in three years!) he would likely qualify as a “person with a disability” in Oregon: a person with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

For me, jogging, wearing a full pair of stunning boots, and grabbing both ankles on occasion constitute “major life activities” so I’d guess his status as a peg-leg probably qualifies him as disabled.

I’m not really sure; this question has me a bit stumped, so get some advice from a lawyer.

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Unfortunately, I don’t know what state you live in BECAUSE YOU DIDN’T GET BACK TO ME so utilize your google machine and see what it says about elder/disabled abuse in your area.

Depending upon the particulars of the situation, another option may be to retain the services of an attorney and see if this is a case in which you could file for a conservatorship, power of attorney, or other type of legal protection.  If this is the case, I encourage you to ask around for referrals and find a lawyer who has a good reputation, because it is often complicated and emotional and you need an expert.

Scenario Two: He’s Doing Just Fine.

My job is to examine all the possibilities, and although the facts as you present them don’t really pass the smell test as it pertains to your new sister-in-law, I think you need to consider that Bill is happy as a pig in shit and you have no right to force him out of the pigpen.

Like you, I think it’s interesting that Vicky put off the wedding until Bill got sick, but maybe his illness reminded her how much she loved and wanted to marry him.

It’s possible.  Anything is possible.

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You said she has a history of “doing things like this to other people in her family.” That sentence confused me: do you mean she regularly marries sick family members? That’s gross.

Perhaps you meant she takes advantage of people to get money from them.  How would I know, BECAUSE YOU DIDN’T EMAIL ME BACK?

Another question I wanted to ask was this: do you and your husband have a financial interest here?  Because I am terribly sorry to bring this up but it isn’t uncommon for people to question relationships that may impact their own possibility for inheritance.

I’ve received several letters on this topic and I’ve seen an ex-wife rail against a new wife because she was furious that her “children’s birthright” (meaning the money earned by their father and the money left to their father by his family) might somehow end up with Wife #2.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: absent financial abuse or fraud it’s nobody’s damn business where someone else’s money goes.  None of us should ever expect to inherit a dime so if that’s your issue you need to get your hand out of Bill’s pocket and let him be happy.

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You wrote, “We are very concerned that he is being taken advantage of and wonder if there is any action we can take to protect my husbands brother, who may be a victim of neglect but does not have a clue that he is.  We feel he is happy, even if it is an illusion, but just want him to have good care.”

Here’s the thing, Laura.  It is up to you and your husband to determine objectively as best you can whether or not Bill is a victim of neglect or abuse.  If he is not, who are you to question whether or not his happiness is an “illusion?”

Look around you.

We have war, famine, Ebola (thanks, Obama!), global warming and accompanying devastating weather, cancer, orphans, greedy divorce lawyers, Scientology, and Donald Trump.  This is one messed up world.

All happiness is an illusion – a self-created construct that allows most of us to go from point A to point Z without throwing ourselves off a bridge.  I’m not being cynical and in fact it’s the most valuable lesson I’ve learned over the past few years, because now rather than waiting for someone or something to make me happy, I create a paradigm/illusion in which I make myself happy.

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It doesn’t always work, of course.  Sometimes it’s like your home’s power in a windstorm and it flickers or fails, but the ability to create a happy existence always comes back.  This is what Phil is doing so I suggest in the absence of evidence of abuse you calm down and let him live his life.

If you seem him struggling, be there for him to lean on.

And with that, I’ll show myself out.

-Robin