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Virginia Beach Estate Planning Lawyer / Blog / Elder Law / Ugly Family Scrape Nearly Cost Elderly Man His Home

Ugly Family Scrape Nearly Cost Elderly Man His Home

A sad story out of Ohio has a happy ending, but the saddest part of all is that it didn’t have to happen in the first place.

Just a few minutes of conversation with an elder law attorney might have spared everyone involved a lot of anguish and heartache.

John Potter, a World War II veteran and retired train dispatcher for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, faced eviction from the home he built 56 years ago in Zaleski, Ohio, a small community south of Columbus, according to reports on ABC News and Real Estate AOL.

The person threatening him with eviction: his daughter.

“In 2004, John Potter and his wife, who has since died, gave the general power of attorney to his daughter for future matters if they declined in health, including to take care of her autistic adult brother, now 63,” the ABC News piece by Susanna Kim stated. “But unbeknownst to Potter, his daughter Janice Cottrill eventually used that power to convey the deed to the one-story home to herself. In 2010, Potter said he learned of the deed transfer and switched power of attorney to his granddaughter, Jaclyn Fraley, now 35.”

Potter sued his daughter and won his case in Vinton County (Ohio) Court but lost on appeal. The appellate court ruled “that the statute of limitations of four years had passed on the accusation of breach of fiduciary duty and thus the deed could not be handed back to Potter,” the ABC News story continued.

“Early this year, his daughter and her husband sent Potter an eviction notice, saying they had terminated his ‘existing lease.’ ”

“He doesn’t share that this hurts him, but you can tell that it’s hurting him,” Fraley told AOL Real Estate.

“She said it hurts her, too, explaining that she hasn’t spoken to her mother, aside from communication through lawyers, in two years.”

“When asked how he feels about being evicted by his daughter and son-in-law, Potter was at a loss for words,” ABC News reported.

“I just cannot believe my daughter would ever do anything like that to me,” he said.

Janice Cottrill declined to comment, according to Kim’s piece.

In the end, before an eviction hearing could take place, Jaclyn Fraley mounted an online campaign to raise $125,000 to buy back her grandfather’s home. She recently announced that the GoFundMe.com campaign had brought in $139,201.

“We have met out goal and it is so exciting,” Fraley wrote on the site. “We are in awe of all the love and support. We are still so speechless. Grandpa is amazed at all the love and support. He told me, ‘I never knew people could love an old man so much.’ ”

This ugly family feud could have been prevented if only the right legal advice had been sought the proper advice back in 2004 when he signed the durable power of attorney at a time of poor health.

“A durable power of attorney may be the most important of all legal documents,” according to an item on the website elderlaw.com. “This legal document gives another person the right to do certain things for the maker of the durable power of attorney. What those things are depends upon what the durable power of attorney says. A person giving a durable power of attorney can make it very broad or can limit the durable power of attorney to certain acts.”

In the case John Potter of Zaleski, Ohio, obviously some limitations should have been included.

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