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My 89-year-old dad (with Parkinson's) is living with my 86-year-old stepmother (with cancer, but actually doing relatively ok); they've been married 15 years. Here's the basic info:
- They live on Cape Cod. I'm in Detroit; the other kids are in Seattle, Baltimore, Princeton, and LA.
- They have a joint checking account (each deposits $2500/mo) to cover joint expenses (eg, cable, garden, dog, food) and a joint credit card, but otherwise keep their finances separate (and have a pre-nup). I have automoated gas, electric, landline, cellphone, and cable monthly payments out of this account.
- My name is on my dad's personal checking and savings account, so I can see where his money is (or isn't going).
- My dad neglected/forgot to file income taxes in 2012--we found out this past summer. We worked with his accountant to get both 2012 and 2013 filed, but he still has not paid either $5K bill--and has at least two nasty letters from the IRS at home. He has promised to call on Monday to pay (even though he told me two weeks ago he had already paid).
- I've set up automatic deductions for his longterm care insurance premiums (quarterly), Lifeline medicalert (monthly), a monthly $350 payment on his personal credit card. That leaves home insurance, property tax, and income tax for him to manage.

Today, he called and left a message and asked me to stop the automatic payments. I called, and, in addition to talking about the tax bill, I told him I found out a quarterly payment on his home insurance is due in about a week--unclear if he was aware of it or not, but says he will also address that on Monday.
I offered to pay someone to come in and help organize his papers, but he is refusing, and it's driving us--and my stepmother--crazy. She says he yells at her when she tries to help.

What can/should I do? The slight upside is that my dad isn't a frivolous spender, but it's causing a lot of stress on them at home (and I'm worried my stepmother might even walk about, although I'm not sure where she'd go).

Thanks in advance...

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86, one with cancer, one with parkinsons. Parkinsons symptoms can change the way a person handles money, and how they choose to spend it.
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Your name on the account may leave you legally liable. Find out.
Get permission to have the login to all the accounts, even joint accounts.
Actually seeing the whole picture may help you help them.
Respect their dignity, but do help them both.
I am not an expert, just passing on information.
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Maybe your Dad meant only stop the automatic credit card payments.
Do you see the credit card bills? Do they really need a credit card? Seems like this could be a dangerous leak in the budget, or an area in which anyone with access could take advantage.
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Write him a letter explaining what you are seeing him doing and off some solutions that he might be willing to consider. It's been my experience with my dad that talking to him long distance over the phone doesn't always work (I'm not sure he's even hearing half of what I say). But when I express my thoughts in a letter and then followed up with a call after I'm sure he's had time to receive it, then we've usually be able to talk it through and come up with solutions.

I learned to do that in this forum actually, when one sticky problem (getting my dad to pay my brother and sister in law for his care) seemed insurmountable. Maggie Marshall in this forum suggested I write him a letter (she even wrote a sample letter for me which I used) explaining what I was asking of him and why, and low and behold, it worked beautifully. I've been writing dad letter's ever since when felt it was an important issue. You might give this a try.
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Thanks for the feedback so far. Unfortunately, there's no relative close by to help sort through the mail and sit down with him while he writes checks; that's what my stepmom has been trying to do, but it appears he can be resistant to even that.
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My other thought was do you have a relative close by who could sit down with him to help sort thru the mail and stay with him while he writes out the checks to pay the bills? I know with my dad that he becomes overwhelmed just seeing a stack of paperwork. If I sit with him and go thru each paper with him, the work is done. Giving up writing out the checks and paying the bills is something he has done for years and does not want to stop. By helping him get thru it, he is able to feel useful and in way, keep his independence. I know you are not near your dad but maybe another trustworthy relative is.
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I would stay on top of that past due tax bill. My uncle had not filed for 5 years and a mandatory withholding tax was placed on all of his accounts. It was harder to get this removed then it was filing the 5 past due returns.
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I would have the cable, water, Gas and electric sent alerts to my e mail address. So I would know if he hadn't paid
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Adam, this sounds like an early stage of dementia. The good (?) news is that he may easily forget his request of you to stop the automatic payments. AND, if he asks again, oops you forgot. I'm a little lost as to your ability to pay the joint bills as it doesn't sound like you have access to the joint account.

Since he and his wife have a joint checking account, can she take over the routine bill paying? Mail review, etc? How about making a 3 way call with home owners insurance (and others) so that you are partof the discussion? (Most of our phones these days have 3 way calling features included) Then you can hear the discussion. Most utilities will notify a family member of a senior if bills go unpaid, put yourself on for gas, electricity, phone, water, etc.
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My brother and I got online accounts for my father for credit cards, and all his bills. So we could keep an eye on him and make sure his bills got paid. I checked his mail everyday, and threw away all the letters from the countless charitities that were sucking him dry. He would give thousands of dollar to telethons, so then I had to block all the telethon channels.He wouldn't give my brother poa, so that was out of the question. He was in the early stages of dementia, everyone could see it, but he wouldn't admit it or he didn't see it. You need a lawyer, and you may need to take your father to the Dr to get him to find him incompetent.
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PS: I should add I have durable POA (but not complete POA) and am dad's health proxy.
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