If you’re reading this article you’ve probably had to take care of your parent to some extent in the past, or perhaps you will have to in the future. When your parent or anyone else becomes ill or unable to attend to their own affairs, it becomes necessary for someone else to step up to the plate and assume the role of guardian, conservator, or agent under a durable power of attorney, which is usually the preferred legal means of taking over.
It is important to be sure that your loved one’s bills do not remain unpaid or paid twice, and to protect your loved one from all of the usual schemes of identity theft, fraud, and other scams. You may not have had the opportunity to be in charge or have of current knowledge of your parent’s income and expenses, but it will be necessary for you to have full disclosure from your parent in order to make all of the necessary decisions.
One of the best ways to be sure that nothing is lost in the process is to do pre-planning. This does require your parent to share information such as listing of assets, insurance policies, annuities, and tax returns with you if they regard this as an invasion of their privacy.
How this conversation is presented is critically important. You should be clear that you’re not looking to take over at this time, but you should have available all of the resources and information to step into your parent’s shoes and make their decisions when and if that time comes. If your parent is not willing to share everything, they should at least tell you where the information is. To the extent that your parent utilizes a computer, you should know where the login information and passwords are kept so that access will be available down the road.
Possibly one of the most important considerations, however, is the respect that should be given to your parent in the transition process. In some cases, it may be a geriatric care manager, social worker, or other close family friend or relative who suggests that you should take over your parent’s finances, because no matter how or what is said, your parent may be defensive. Often times, the proposal to your parent best comes from an accountant or lawyer who doesn’t have a financial stake or personal interest in the process.
Hyman G. Darling, Esq.
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