Search Articles

Find Attorneys

Promise to Care for Grandmother Does Not Hold Up in Court

  • August 23rd, 2018

[This article was originally published on December 17, 2003.  The links were updated on August 23, 2018.]

A Tennessee court case highlights the importance of getting care agreements in writing. A grandmother claimed she gave her grandson and his wife her house in exchange for their oral promise to care for her. When they refused to provide care after she suffered a stroke, she sued them '“ and lost.

Local Elder Law Attorneys in Your City

Elder Law Attorney

Firm Name
City, State

Elder Law Attorney

Firm Name
City, State

Elder Law Attorney

Firm Name
City, State

Rena Thompson, now 83, and her husband built a three-bedroom house in Tennessee in 1978. Mrs. Thompson's husband died three years later. Mrs. Thompson suffered a series of strokes and spent much of her time living with her son, who is retired and could care for her. Meanwhile, Mrs. Thompson allowed her grandson, Charles Hensley, and his wife to move into her home. According to Mrs. Thompson, the Hensleys agreed, to "take care of me as long as I lived." Mrs. Thompson subsequently gave her house to the Hensleys '“ in exchange, she claims, for this promise of care. The Hensleys say they never agreed to anything of the sort.

A particularly serious stroke left Mrs. Thompson requiring 24-hour care. After a year of living with her son, Mrs. Thompson expressed a desire to move back to her own home. She was prevented from doing so, however, because the house now belonged to the Hensleys, both of whom work and could not provide the round-the-clock care Mrs. Thompson required. Mrs. Thompson sued the Hensleys, claiming that they had breached an oral contract to care for her in exchange for receiving her property. The trial court dismissed Mrs. Thompson's claim, ruling that that there was no oral agreement between the parties. The court noted that Mrs. Thompson could have protected herself '“ but failed to do so -- by placing specific restrictions on the deed in which she gave her property to the Hensleys.

The Court of Appeals of Tennessee agreed with the trial court, ruling that there was no "meeting of the minds" regarding the terms of the alleged contract. The moral of the story: get care agreements in writing, especially if you are giving away your property in exchange for a promise of in-home care. Thompson v. Hensley (Tenn. Ct. App., No. E2003 '“ 00456 - COA-R3-CV, Nov. 12, 2003).

To download the full text of the appeals court's decision in PDF format, go to: http://www.tsc.state.tn.us/sites/default/files/OPINIONS/TCA/PDF/034/ThompR.pdf.
(If you do not have the free PDF reader installed on your computer, download it here.)

For more on putting care agreements in writing, click here.

 


Last Modified: 08/23/2018

ADVERTISEMENT
Medicaid 101
What Medicaid Covers

In addition to nursing home care, Medicaid may cover home care and some care in an assisted living facility. Coverage in your state may depend on waivers of federal rules.

READ MORE
How to Qualify for Medicaid

To be eligible for Medicaid long-term care, recipients must have limited incomes and no more than $2,000 (in most states). Special rules apply for the home and other assets.

READ MORE
Medicaid’s Protections for Spouses

Spouses of Medicaid nursing home residents have special protections to keep them from becoming impoverished.

READ MORE
What Medicaid Covers

In addition to nursing home care, Medicaid may cover home care and some care in an assisted living facility. Coverage in your state may depend on waivers of federal rules.

READ MORE
How to Qualify for Medicaid

To be eligible for Medicaid long-term care, recipients must have limited incomes and no more than $2,000 (in most states). Special rules apply for the home and other assets.

READ MORE
Medicaid’s Protections for Spouses

Spouses of Medicaid nursing home residents have special protections to keep them from becoming impoverished.

READ MORE
Medicaid Planning Strategies

Careful planning for potentially devastating long-term care costs can help protect your estate, whether for your spouse or for your children.

READ MORE
Estate Recovery: Can Medicaid Take My House After I’m Gone?

If steps aren't taken to protect the Medicaid recipient's house from the state’s attempts to recover benefits paid, the house may need to be sold.

READ MORE
Help Qualifying and Paying for Medicaid, Or Avoiding Nursing Home Care

There are ways to handle excess income or assets and still qualify for Medicaid long-term care, and programs that deliver care at home rather than in a nursing home.

READ MORE
Are Adult Children Responsible for Their Parents’ Care?

Most states have laws on the books making adult children responsible if their parents can't afford to take care of themselves.

READ MORE
Applying for Medicaid

Applying for Medicaid is a highly technical and complex process, and bad advice can actually make it more difficult to qualify for benefits.

READ MORE
Alternatives to Medicaid

Medicare's coverage of nursing home care is quite limited. For those who can afford it and who can qualify for coverage, long-term care insurance is the best alternative to Medicaid.

READ MORE
ElderLaw 101
Estate Planning

Distinguish the key concepts in estate planning, including the will, the trust, probate, the power of attorney, and how to avoid estate taxes.

READ MORE
Grandchildren

Learn about grandparents’ visitation rights and how to avoid tax and public benefit issues when making gifts to grandchildren.

READ MORE
Guardianship/Conservatorship

Understand when and how a court appoints a guardian or conservator for an adult who becomes incapacitated, and how to avoid guardianship.

READ MORE
Health Care Decisions

We need to plan for the possibility that we will become unable to make our own medical decisions. This may take the form of a health care proxy, a medical directive, a living will, or a combination of these.

READ MORE
Estate Planning

Distinguish the key concepts in estate planning, including the will, the trust, probate, the power of attorney, and how to avoid estate taxes.

READ MORE
Grandchildren

Learn about grandparents’ visitation rights and how to avoid tax and public benefit issues when making gifts to grandchildren.

READ MORE
Guardianship/Conservatorship

Understand when and how a court appoints a guardian or conservator for an adult who becomes incapacitated, and how to avoid guardianship.

READ MORE
Health Care Decisions

We need to plan for the possibility that we will become unable to make our own medical decisions. This may take the form of a health care proxy, a medical directive, a living will, or a combination of these.

READ MORE
Long-Term Care Insurance

Understand the ins and outs of insurance to cover the high cost of nursing home care, including when to buy it, how much to buy, and which spouse should get the coverage.

READ MORE
Medicare

Learn who qualifies for Medicare, what the program covers, all about Medicare Advantage, and how to supplement Medicare’s coverage.

READ MORE
Retirement Planning

We explain the five phases of retirement planning, the difference between a 401(k) and an IRA, types of investments, asset diversification, the required minimum distribution rules, and more.

READ MORE
Senior Living

Find out how to choose a nursing home or assisted living facility, when to fight a discharge, the rights of nursing home residents, all about reverse mortgages, and more.

READ MORE
Social Security

Get a solid grounding in Social Security, including who is eligible, how to apply, spousal benefits, the taxation of benefits, how work affects payments, and SSDI and SSI.

READ MORE
Special Needs Planning

Learn how a special needs trust can preserve assets for a person with disabilities without jeopardizing Medicaid and SSI, and how to plan for when caregivers are gone.

READ MORE
Veterans Benefits

Explore benefits for older veterans, including the VA’s disability pension benefit, aid and attendance, and long-term care coverage for veterans and surviving spouses.

READ MORE