Don’t Steal Momma’s House!

An elderly woman had three children. One of the children moved in with her in a house in Fannin County. As her health deteriorated, she designed to move to Grayson County to be near her doctor. She paid cash for a new house. However, her son convinced her that the house should be put in his name for “Medicaid planning purposes.” She agreed, trusting her son.

Her trust was misplaced. The son married and his wife demanded that the mother leave the house. Mom, feared for her life, and moved out. But she had limited funds to go elsewhere and it became obvious to her other children that she would benefit from assisted living care. Unfortunately, she had limited funds after having paid cash for the house that she no longer lived in, because she had been kicked out.

The other children demanded that their brother sell the house and give the proceeds to their mother so she could afford to move into an assisted living community. He refused. The mother and the other children hired attorney J. Michael Young. He filed suit, claiming that the mother owned the house, under a theory of a resulting trust because she had paid for it. Attorney Young sought and obtained a temporary restraining order, prohibiting the son from selling or mortgaging the house. This was very important to preserve the house. The court held an evidentiary hearing a few weeks later on a temporary injunction. The court then granted the temporary injunction preventing the son from mortgaging or selling the house.

Attorney Young then obtained a ruling from the court that the son owed his mother an informal fiduciary duty because she had depended upon him for her daily needs. This essentially resolved the case, since the son would have never met his burden to prove to a jury that what he did was fair to his mother. The parties then reached agreement that the son would sell the house, and give the proceeds to the mother.