Addressing Elder Law Issues with Your Parent

elder law, elder careThanks goodness, my mom and dad had the foresight to consider legal issues such as a will, living trust and financial and healthcare powers of attorney, earlier in life.   When my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and could no longer manage her financial affairs, my dad served as her agent.

If you are your parent's agent when and how should you take action?

  • Your parent should review and update their will, living trust and POA every three years or when family circumstances change.
  • As their agent, keep copies of their documents.
  • Talk frankly with your parents and other family members about eldercare circumstances that might indicate you need to step in.

Warning signs that your help is needed

  • Unpaid bills
  • Bounced checks or an unbalanced check book
  • Uncharacteristic spending and financial risk taking
  • Family members or strangers are influencing your parent to donate, spend or give them money.

As your parent's needs grow

  • Document your concerns. This gives you facts to refer to when speaking with your parent's doctor, family members and your parent.
  • Meet with an elder law attorney to understand your responsibilities as her agent or successor trustee. Your parent's estate documents should specify when your parent can be removed as the trustee from the living trust and what is required to activate the financial power of attorney.
  • Share your eldercare concerns with other involved family members and build agreement to take action.
  • Meet with your parent and to discuss your concerns and offer your help.
  • Consult with your parent's doctor and ask for an assessment.
  • Schedule a doctor's appointment for your parent so the doctor can make an independent assessment of your parent's needs.

After you begin using your parent's elder law tools

  • Use copies of your parents directives as supporting documents whenever making financial transactions for your parent.
  • Provide regular financial status reports to your parent and the beneficiaries of her estate.

Are you currently acting as a successor trustee or agent for a sick parent?  What advice do you have to anyone facing this situation?

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--Janice Wallace

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