Can I legally charge my dad’s estate if I cared for him?

I left home to care for my dad in another state for 7 weeks. Although 3 siblings lived closer, none of them were willing to care for him. While there 24/7 for 7 weeks, none of them stayed with him for 1 hour to give me a break. Dad gave me a check for $5,000 because he knew he would have had no one if I had not been there and also because he knew I had lost income being there. He also gave me one of his credit cards for gas household items, groceries, etc. 1 sibling is now demanding (via threatening text message) that I pay back the $5,000, plus all credit card charges. Can I bill the estate for my care to dad?

Asked on November 2, 2011 under Estate Planning, Indiana


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You are not obligated to repay gifts your father made to you, and/or compensation he paid you for  your care. You should not, therefore, have to return or refund the $5,000 check or repay credit card charges made up to your father's passing. A gifts a person makes cannot be reclaimed by the estate post-mortem; and any compensation you earned pursuant to an agreement with your father, including compensation paid by use of  credit card, cannot be reclaimed either, since you provided consideration--your services or care--for that compensation.

(The exception to the above would be if your father was not mentally competent at the time, and it could be shown that you took advantage of him in some way.)

However, you would have had no right to use the credit card after your father passed and would have to repay any charges made since that  time.

You may not charge the estate for any additional costs, compensation, etc. for your father's care, unless there had been an agreement or contract between you and your father stating that you were being paid for his care (and also that  your father had not in fact paid these amounts prior to his death). If there was such an agreement, it *may* be enforceable against the estate, as a just debt of  your father, and you should bring the agreement with you to an attorney to review. Also, if you are sued by the estate or  sibling for any amounts, you have to take it seriously--even when you are legally in the right, responding incorrectly to a lawsuit can result in your losing. So if legal action is taken against you, you should retain an attorney to help you.

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