Ten months ago, my aunt’s 66-year-old live-in boyfriend died unexpectedly. She has no children and is left with a four-bedroom, two-bathroom house to take care of by herself. She has always been in debt (I think), and his final expenses only made it worse.
Since his death, she has expected my family (mostly me) to complete a list of chores every time I visit. I have been asked to hook up her garden hose, plant grass, exterminate bees, replant flowers, vacuum — even move her boyfriend’s ashes from the original bag to a more permanent urn. So far, I have managed to avoid taking care of her pool and cutting her grass, but it’s only a matter of time before the neighbors stop doing it for her.
I love my aunt, and she has done a lot for me over the years. I realize she has no kids to take care of her, but I don’t think I should be expected to be her lackey for the next 30 years. How do I tell her I can’t be responsible for taking care of her house without getting her upset or angry?
From Hartford, Connecticut
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Your aunt has my condolences for her loss. She also has my condemnation for acting like an Egyptian taskmaster from ancient times. Anyway, here are some of my suggestions in dealing with that overlord. See if you can’t get the power of attorney over her, and secretly sell her home. Give the buyers a really good deal, that allows your aunt to continue to live there rent free indefinitely, but the new owners will have the right to evict her with one hour’s notice if they feel she’s getting on their nerves. When you detect she might be having some memory loss issues, place her in a nursing home, and then comfort her by persuading her into believing that the staff there are actually her relatives that she’s bullied into taking care of her “home”. Or, you can give her a list of her of how much you will begin to charge her, including travel expenses, plus paid vacations and holidays. If she refuses, threaten to report her ruthless behavior to the Department of Labor. And lastly, convince her that her boyfriend didn’t die, but he faked his own death so he can run away with a much younger woman. Hopefully, that’ll cause her to lose the desire to keep up the place, and she’ll gradually let it fall apart while she’s battling deep rooted depression. And when she gets to the point that she doesn’t want to live there anymore, let her rent a room at your place, and include in your lease, a long list of chores. I hope this helps.