How do we get access to my father's account to pay his bills if no one has power of attorney?

Asked by

My father is in the hospital on a vent and can't speak. He's been diagnosed with severe dementia, so even when he's lucid, he's not considered able to pay his bills or give us the ability via POA to pay his bills. Home and school taxes are due, and none of the family can cover the costs on our own - does anyone know any way we can access the account to pay bills in his name? Is there any other solution you can suggest here?

PS: His wife passed away not long ago, and we have no POA. Temporary guardianship appointment is about 30 days away, if he lives that long. :-\

Thanks in advance.

Answers 1 to 10 of 30
Top Answer
Who is the attorney that is working with your family for guardianship hearing? I'd start there to see what the feasible options are for you in your state.

If you don't have one and are planning on going into the hearing on your own, I'd really suggest that you get an attorney who deals with guardianship or conservatorship. These issues can be sticky. I've never been a G/C but have been executrix for 2 aunts estates - these go through probate court which is where G/C hearings are usually done also- so I found out alot about G/C while spending years dealing with being executrix in & out of probate court.

Unfortunately since there was no advance planning, you will need to go the route of getting Guardianship/Conservatorship for your family member to do anything legally. You have the right to go to court to petition to become their legal guardian -- although that doesn't mean the arrangement will automatically come to pass.

To be appointed a legal guardian, also called a conservator, you first need to file papers with the local court, clearly describing the person’s physical or mental condition and inability to make decisions. If there is an imminent need, then you need to document what it is and why it is imminent/emergency. Property taxes due usually doesn't rise to that level but a foreclosure would - get my drift? The court will notify other family that the papers have been filed and that a judge will be deciding whether or not to grant the request. You will be asked to provide that list – don’t get cute and leave anyone off. Keep in mind the hearing notice is published in the newspaper and in many county also posted on-line, so people can find out. If his recently deceased wife has children from a previous marriage and if there is any community property issues within her will and her estate hasn't finished probate then her children or heirs need to be on the list of contacts for the court hearing too. Other family can file letters either supporting or contesting you being named as G/C.

If you apply to be the G/C, you may be asked to provide your & your spouse personal and financial data that is entered into public record. The court can X your name for police records. Your "none of the family can cover the costs on our own" can be a red flag for the judge as he can view the family as a risk to deal with $ appropriately.

The G/C judge does NOT have to appoint you or a family member as the G/C. If there is family friction, they can appoint an outsider to manage the elder's affairs and that person will be paid to do so out of the person’s assets. You really need to present a united front that is all kum-ba-ya on their care & finances. If you don't, the Court has the right to remove them from all family members and make him a Ward of the State. The judge has a list of attorney's who are bonded and experienced with G/C. Often those attorney's have paralegals that sit the day in probate waiting to get appointed. The judge can appoint one of these attorney's to be the G/C for the elder and they are paid from the elder's assets. The appointment can be temporary or permanent. You want to do whatever you can to not have this happen.

This is sticky, you'll likely need to hire an experienced lawyer to help. To begin your search for the best lawyer for the job, contact the local bar association and ask whether it has a lawyer referral service that includes those who specialize in conservatorships or elder law. You can also contact the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys for a referral to its members in your area. Good luck.
thank you igloo for this answer. I have been told by my brother if anything happens to him, I will have to get guardianship of my Mom. She refuses to put anyone other than my brother on any financial papers (she is 81). I about flipped out because I know this is expensive and takes alot of time. I would love to send this to him if he would only read it. She would just do nothing. At least the state will appoint someone and spend her money. I am at the point of just saying to h@#* with it.
Seconded - thank you so much for your thoughtful answer, igloo. Very helpful.
P O A is a lot simpler than Guardianship. It has to be done when the donor is lucid and in agreement with the POA arrangement. That time having passed, the next best thing is an attorney's request to the court that you be appointed Guardian. The accounting has to be meticulous.
I would check with the bank and see if anyone is signatory on his account besides him so bills could be paid. Best Wishes!
If the bills do not get paid, he gets a bad credit score..... not a real issue for someone on deaths door so relax. This will get done in time to be responsible.
Sadly, there is no quick-fix to this problem. This is why the issue of "estate planning" is considered so important. Getting a guardianship takes time -- and it should -- because it's a very serious issue, and should not be taken lightly. Although in your case it may be obvious that your father's physical condition merits this, many times it's questionable, and at least 2 physicians have to agree that the person in question mentally incapacitated. Physicians are highly reluctant to do that because of the legal implications. (We live in a very litigious society!) If you had a POA, you would have had to ensure that you had a durable POA, because there are POAs that are invalid if the person is incapacitated -- it doesn't make sense, but that's what they say. And a POA is no longer in effect when someone dies. If your father's account/s were joint, that would make things easier, because the co-owner could access the account. Additionally, upon his death, any joint account (depending on how the account is set up), would pass to that co-owner without probate. Estate planning isn't death -- it's about anything that might require someone to need assistance in the event that they can't act on their own -- and it can make life immensely easier for the living upon death. It can help avoid probate and expenses. While your situation does not seem to be resolvable short of having an attorney who might have connections, hopefully you and your family will learn from this so that no one else will have to experience this. What you're going through is bad enough without having to worry about paying bills and accessing accounts. My prayers are with you.
PROPERTY TAXES are higher on the totem pole than a house payment. In otherwords, All property taxes MUST be Paid before a house can be sold, including before a bank foreclosing can take repossession. A lot of the reasons why banks are not selling very many foreclosed homes. i.e. property taxes are past due and the City/County gets paid first. WHEN people walk away from their mortgages, they have a separate judgment.i.e. property tax liens. Serious. ALSO i have never had a problem calling a utility co. or bill collection and getting the bill paid,,,,,its when you start asking questions about the account. The companies WILL take your payment. just pay them and not ask questions.
Thats Right people.......Get DURABLE POA.,,,Get Payable Upon Death on the bank account
Judy C, what do you do when your parent won't cooperate? My brother is POA and I want to be alternate in case he dies or doesn't have the time to deal with things. Mom will not put me on anything. I have talked to her until I am blue in the face about how hard it is to get guardianship. I never want to have to do that. She just won't add me. i have explained to her "well at least add someone". No go. She doesn't want anyone knowing her financial business except her son. I could just scream.

Share your answer

Please enter your Answer

Ask a Question

Reach thousands of elder care experts and family caregivers
Get answers in 10 minutes or less
Receive personalized caregiving advice and support