I, my husband, and my childhood friend “Mia” are all in our early forties. Mia lives with and supports her niece “Hope,” who is in her mid-twenties. Hope has an IQ just slightly too high to qualify for disability, but for various reasons is unable to live independently. Hope was mostly raised by Mia’s parents (her grandparents), who are now dead. Her mother, Mia’s sister and only sibling, is also dead and her father’s whereabouts are unknown.
Their family tends to have very poor health, and Mia already has the health and mobility of an elderly person. She’s worried what will happen to Hope when she dies, since they have no other relatives they’re in touch with. Nor does Mia expect to leave much money. She earns less than $30,000 a year and Hope less than $10,000. They rent, have minimal savings, and just barely cover their present needs. So as Mia’s closest remaining friend, she has asked me if I and my husband will take Hope in upon her death.
Should I agree to this? We own a three-bedroom house and could provide Hope with a room and food, but I’m concerned about our responsibility for anything beyond that, since we’re far from well-off either (which ironically is the main reason we decided not to have kids). We’re not related to Hope and would have no formal guardianship, since she has never been declared incompetent. If we had to take her for needed health care or call an ambulance for her, would those bills be on her, as an adult (even with no money, insurance or credit history), or on us? If she developed mobility issues such that we couldn’t care for her at home, where else could we take her, and could they come after us for payment? We’d appreciate any and all advice you can give.
— Hesitant Helper