My mom can't handle money and there is no one there to care for her. She refuses help and won't sign over legal powers to anyone. How can I help her with finances?


Mom lives by herself and all her kids live many hundreds of miles away. She is losing her ability to deal with her finances. (She thinks she has no money, but has a lot! She withdrew a large sum from the bank after Dad's death and has been living on that cash for 4 years. She has difficulty writing checks and withdrawing money from the bank now.) We tell her what to do over the phone, but she never does it. I sent her power of attorney papers to get signed and notarized, but she doesn't even do that. She refuses to move anywhere near any of us kids, and we cannot move there. She has almost completely isolated herself in her home. Her only friend in town is probably gong to die soon and then she'll have no one. I tried to get her to look at some assisted-living facilities and she about tore my head off. She's in pretty good physical health, but her mind is obviously going, but she doesn't seem to think so and gets upset if any one of us tries to do anything about it. Should we do something drastic like legally wresting control of her life from her?

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Hi Steve,
I wish I could say you had a unique situation, but it's all too common, and very scary for adult children. Generally speaking, people like your mom are more apt to listen to a third party than their children.
Does she have a good doctor who could help her understand the Power Of Attorney issues? Obviously, her friends are dying and can't help. Is there a clergy person she respects? It's hard to think you may have to let her get so bad that you need to call in Social Services for a welfare check, but you may have no choice unless you go to court to have her declared incompetent.
You, perhaps, should talk with an elder law attorney to see if there is any middle ground with her.
Good luck. You aren't alone, but that doesn't make your situation go away.
Take care,
Helpful Answer (4)

This is sticky - you really need to find an elder care lawyer who practices in the county where your mom lives.

If she is one of those who just won't, won't, won't do it then you really have no choice but to go the guardianship/conservatorship (G/C) route to take over. G/C is legally very involved and requires going before a judge to be appointed. If you all live far away, the judge could appoint someone local, who is NOT family, to be the guardian. They get paid to do this and it comes out of mom's money. You probalby don't want this to happen as it's hard to undo.

You need an attorney to go thru the G/C process. If you do G/C, the judge will look closely at whether the family is all kum-ba-ya and all on the same page for how to deal with mom. This is really, really important. So you want to make sure that is the case.

Alot of your options are really dependent on what mom's cognitive state is. If she has been diagnosed & it is written in a medical chart, that she HAS dementia, then you can't do any of the advanced planning (like DPOA, MPOA) as she legally cannot enter any agreements.

If you're still in the gray area, where you know she has dementia BUT hasn't been diagnosed, then you can get the advanced planning things needed done:
- Durable Power of Attorney (a Financial Power of Attorney)
- Medical Power of Attorney
- Living Will &/or Advance Directives
- Declaration of Guardian in Event of Incapacity
- HIPAA Waiver
Either way you need an elder care attorney to work with you on mom's behalf.

Will your mom let you sit down and go over her finances? If you could do this before you see an attorney, it would be good. The more information you can provide, the better for all. If she is all paranoid that everyone is out to get her
or in my mom's case "wanting to take over her identity", then you have to really be tendacious to get things done. Good luck
Helpful Answer (2)

It's unfortunate when this type of situation happens and there are some things that you need to explore BEFORE you race to get a guardianship.I have a client whose husband would not sign the DPA because of paranoia caused by frontal temporal dementia. Since filing the documents to date she has had to spend over $75,000 dollars and counting.The purpose of the guardianship is to protect assets- but it costs big money to get and maintain and often times the money that was supposed to be is spent on charges. It seems like a guardianship is a simple quick fix but there are things that you need to be aware of. Depending on the state and individual county the rules are the same but some counties are stricter than others. I would contact the court house or a certified geriatric care manager and ask for a recommendation of three guardians- then call them and ask what happens AFTER the process. Many states will appoint a guardian and this will cost your mother money. They will need to petition the court (done through an elder attorney) more money. They will require a yearly accounting (more money). Every time you need to spend for something that was not budgeted in the emergency account you will need to petition the court (even more money). If you spend out of pocket for mothers care you will need to go through the process to get reimbursed (more money). Instead of sending her the paper work, I would call a family meeting where all of you show up at moms home and talk with her. If she has some clarity she will realize that if she doesn't sign these papers you will have no choice but to file for a guardianship and what that will mean is that she will loose all control over her financial freedom. Like anything else you will need to do your homework and find a reputable guardian and elder law attorney- just because they hang out a shingle doesn't automatically mean that they will have moms best interest in mind.
Helpful Answer (2)

The first thing I would do is convince her that one of the kids needs to be on her bank account to pay bills if anything should happen to her. Once someone is one the account, get electronic access so utilities and such can be auto paid, again explain that the bank will be paying her bills and she no longer needs to write checks (If she's like my mom and think she needs to pay everything that comes in the mail, you may need to have the auto pays send you electronic statements). This will also allow you to monitor her bank account. I withdraw cash monthly and give it to mom for misc spending, but perhaps your mother could use a debit or credit card (with a low limit and again on auto pay).

Next talk her into updating her will, once at the lawyers this is the perfect time to also set up DPOA and Medical POA.

It's hard for them to give up control so try the angle that this is so she and you kids won't have to worry about it later, it will make everything easier for everyone. Good Luck.
Helpful Answer (2)

Steve, I agree with TheFixer, for one thing you and your siblings shouldn't be doing any of this stuff from long distance. If like you said her mind is going, then how would she be able to do anything on her own that you/yours is asking of her? Time for a sit down with mom. Stress the 'just in case' angle when getting one or two other names on her bank account with her. Maybe she's more afraid of losing total control of her finances, rather then 'sharing' the burden. Then also I agree with the internet option of paying the bills etc. That's what I do with my mother-in-law's bills and it works out fine. A step further would be during that sit down, you ask her WHY she won't move closer to her kids? Is it because she feels like she's leaving your dad and their memories behind if she does? That was a major reason my m-i-l was so resistant to moving into asst. living. She felt like she was abandoning my father-in-law and all their memories after he died. Stop with the long distance for these things, she needs to look into your eyes.
Helpful Answer (0)

My suggestion would be to start with at least a visit by you or one of your siblings to your mother to spend time with her, assess the situation first hand, and then discuss with her your concerns for her well-being, financial and otherwise. Hopefully, she will then feel comfortable discussing her finances with you and allow you to advise her about such matters. Once you have assessed her financial means, you will have a better understanding of the type of assistance that may be right for her. Discuss with her the pros and cons of assisted living versus bringing a third-party caregiver into the home, whether on a part-time or full-time basis. The latter option might be a good first step. You and/or your siblings could already have done some advance research into reputable home health care provider services and, during the visit, conduct interviews of several such service providers. Also during your visit, mention to your mother that you have an initial consultation (usually free of charge or at a reduced hourly rate) with an elder care attorney whom you have also researched and selected in advance of the visit and that you would like her to attend the appointment with you. In short, by the end of the visit, your mother should feel that her children love her and care about her well-being but also empowered to have an attorney looking out for her and some help around the house to enable her to remain in her home, at least for the time being. Eventually, you and your siblings will likely need to revisit the issue of assisted living or a nursing home but, for now, you have a solution that will hopefully work well for your mother and ease your and your siblings concerns. Ideally, you and your siblings (or even, perhaps, a caring SIL or DIL with whom she feels comfortable) should make the effort to periodically visit your mother to spend some quality time with her and, simultaneously, give you siblings the opportunity to assess the situation and the quality of the home health care provider's services. I know that none of this is easy and wish you all the best.
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Guardianship/conservatorship is dicey. You have to prove incapacity, which is different from incompetence. All an elder needs to show capacity is to be able to give their name, the date (within a day or two of the actual date), and where they are. That is what we faced with our father in California. Needless to say, even though he is incompetent to manage his own finances, he has capacity and no judge is going to conserve him until proof of incapacity exists.

It is a challenging process. Remembering that it's a process can ease the sense of urgency that exists. You're not alone.
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I had a lot of trouble with this with my mother when I was taking care of her. The first step was her agreeing to have me to the bills and be a co-signer on her account. However, the credit cards were another matter, she was calling and ordering things, asking for her card when she would see ads on tv, etc. I tried taking these cards away from her, but she turned me in for elder abuse and social services for interfering with her rights. Eventually she agreed to move into another state so we could live in the same town with my sister and my sister filed for guardianship and won after she demonstrated in court that she could not handle her financial affairs. It was hard on our whole family though, and I do not think thinngs will ever be the same between mom and my sister. HOwever, she would not voluntary sign over her affairs even though it was clear that she was incapacitated.
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