Another update from OP, in case anyone is interested:
#1 Hindsight is 20/20: The whole "problem" here has been figuring out **what is going on** (emphasis added
We've learned a good lesson that the problem you observe isn't necessarily the root problem. Here, we saw missed bills, overdrawn accounts, and an IRS debt, so we though it wasn't enough income. Hence, we floated the "solution" of stabilizing living expenses. After a lot of digging and stressed-out discussions, the **actual** problem is too many checking accounts not all connected together and being mentally overwhelmed as 10 years of disorganization came to a head in about 4 different ways all at once.
#2 The heavens have moved!!!!
So proud of my MIL. I can't believe it. She's on a real, bona fide budget (Everydollar, for you Dave Ramsey fans - easy to use and "cute"...does the math without confusing spreadsheets/charts/graphs in a small font). She met with her accountant and started getting on a payment plan with the IRS. This isn't dealing with the housing situation quite, yet it is a Huge Step to be open with finances. Its really nice to see my husband's siblings working together on something, and my MIL is excited and happy to have conquered the demon (calling the IRS and getting #s for income/expenses into a budget was a scary/anxiety-filled task that kept getting put off).
DH and I are really happy for her doing this herself. Another poster had said she found it empowering to handle a budget herself, and MIL definitely seems to be in agreement. It is priceless that the accountant knew exactly what we were all saying (everydollar/Dave Ramsey plan - at least in terms that it IS a plan) and was encouraging but also no BS/no excuses. Interestingly, the accountant said to listen to us and not to the other siblings, and I really hope they don't hear that later from MIL
P.S. To answer the person above, the idea of a house was to get a mentally healthier living situation, to own an asset that could be sold later if need be, and to stabilize monthly living expenses for aging in place. Rent isn't stable (increases, unless we get MIL into subsidized or income-adjusted housing) and her income is fixed. Condos weren't first on the list because of HOA issues and special assessments. What I mean is that the family works in the trades and can take care of fixing a house, but we didn't want to write checks for high special assessments (common in 2 of the condo associations we know of, but have heard very positive things from Bogleheads/others about condo-living.... so can re-evaluate in the future... right now she's not moving). Not sure a CCRC would be in the price range (unless subsidized massively, again, not moving right now
MIl and kids want to keep her living on her own resources as long as possible, rather than set up a perpetually subsidized rent just for her basic living expenses. She has plenty of income right now to cover rent if she gets organized, which she is doing, which is super-fabulous. Her income later likely drops, so we want to be prepared for that possibility, too.
Anyway, wanted to share our happiness - my DH had a 10,000 Watt smile after talking with his mom today, because she is handling this business. Wow
Thank you for walking with us for the past several days.