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Mentally Unstable Woman Donates Items to Family's Dismay

One Abilene family says a donation was made to a local organization by mistake, by someone they say isn't mentally capable of making such a decision. The question is, "are they entitled to the items donated?".
A viewer sent KTAB news an email earlier this week. In it, the viewer explained a situation, in which, a few months ago, her elderly sister donated her washing machine, dryer, dresser and other items to the Abilene Salvation Army. The viewer says the donation would be considered a good deed if her sister was mentally stable enough to make such a decision. She says her sister lives on a fixed income, and can't afford to replace the items, that she says were mistakenly given away.

Since the date of the donation, the viewer has attempted to get the items returned but, according to Lindsey Trook with the Salvation Army, that isn't possible. Trook says the items were sold shortly after being priced and displayed on the sales floor. According to Trook, the organization takes in about 10 to 15 donations each day, and in some cases, the items are sold in the same day or within days of pickup.

The viewer says pickup of her sister's items could have been avoided. She alleges that the family called the Salvation Army, requesting that the organization not take donations from the woman, unless authorized by someone else in the household. But Trook says she doesn't recall receiving such a phone call from the family, and says, even if she did, that's a tough call for them to make.

"It's really hard for us to take someone else's information," says Trook. "If they call and tell us not to pick up a donation from someone's home, it's hard for us to do that."

Trook explained in those situations, it's difficult to judge the reasoning or intentions of the person calling. She says if the homeowner wishes to make a donation and makes the arrangements to do so, it's their job to follow through with the process.

According to attorney David Sprott, there is nothing legally that the family can do in this situation.

"Unless a court of law has declared this person to be incapacitated and unable to make decisions like giving gifts and appointed someone to be her guardian, then she's able to make gifts like that and has the legal authority to do that," explains Sprott.

He says unless an act of fraud is believed to be in play, then the terms of this donation stand valid.

"Of course, if something like this happens, we would love to get it back to them, but a lot of times it's out of our control because the item has already been sold," says Trook.

Attorney Sprott says there is one way to avoid situations as this one. He advises if you have a family member you fill isn't able to authorize a donation, rather due to dementia or a mentally disability, it's imperative the proper legal steps are taken to pinpoint someone to take care of that individual.

"You should apply to a court to get someone appointed to be that person's guardian so that they won't make poor decisions now that they have less of an ability to make decisions for themselves."

In this case, that wasn't done before hand. And now, the family is without the items and looking for a solution. The Salvation Army is offering the family a store credit of an undisclosed amount. But the viewer who sent the email says while the offer is appreciated, she would prefer for the organization to reimburse her sister for the items sold.

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