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My mom has signs of dementia and lives alone in another city (We're just now starting to work on addressing that). She's never been very competent with finances--neither have I to be honest--but in recent years she's been making unsound decisions and not prioritizing bills and needs. Her only income is social security and she is always behind on bills, or ignores some, or forgets, etc. I don't WANT to be involved, as it's part of her ever-diminishing independence, and by extension mine as well, but I am also unable to continually bail her out when she runs out of money because she isn't spending it on priorities. I don't think she would allow a full FPOA (she trusts shady predatory loan companies more than she does me), but maybe I can "trick" her into a setup in which I semi-control her money for her using a joint account? Any thoughts? Thank you! Sorry for the rant.

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I was on my mom's account as well as DPOA. Her bills were all drafted from the account and I gave her an allowance for any other expenses. The problem wasn't her, it was her youngest son stealing all her money. This worked well for us.
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Thank you all again! @tania2152, I will try to take that tact of speaking very simply yet firmly. She is still fairly lucid sometimes and gets very suspicious when I start talking about things like "home help","organizing rides" (she has her car in impound from driving on suspended license), and getting a neurology appointment, but sometimes she seems to relent a bit. For example, she did agree to sign all the Medicaid paperwork and even organized some financial documents to the best of her ability; I was terrified that she would simply refuse to do it. And she recently semi-agreed to at least discuss FPOA and Medical POA. So maybe there is a little progress. I admit that I selfishly feel a bit better to at least have the ball rolling a little, and to see that there are paths ahead to act upon.This group is great!
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AZ: While I don't claim to be a Medicaid expert, I don't believe you should be moving funds, else you cause Medicaid to look at that.
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Hi AZdesert. I believe if she already has an account set up for her Social Security automatic deposits you can't control her pension. You're her daughter. It'll be better for you to go to Social Security administration office in person. Perhaps one of the agents will tell you what to do step by step. Ask all the questions you need to ask. They wouldn't help you by just calling. You have to be there. You may need a proof that she's having dementia. Call first. Get a Durable Power of Attorney. Talk to her into signing it, make her understand how important it's that you should have this document.
(Talk to her as if she was a child, kind and thoughtful, make her see the positive side about it, and don't bail her out... You can't bail a child that has fallen on to the floor and got hurt.... The hurt is the lesson for the child to learn to be more aware of himself - herself). By you paying her bills, she acts like teenager who doesn't care since there is someone else who is taking the burden... Make her see how detrimental she's acting with actions not words. (Don't yell, don't get angry, it wouldn't work.. It isn't working for you. Perhaps she is doing it just to be contrary...) I know how hard it's.
I'm dealing with 2 elderly friends, totally different characters. I talk to them as if they're children, lovingly but a bit stern and even though I have to repeat myself over and over for them to get an idea of the things I'm doing. I'm able to do it... Show her that you love her but you also mean business...
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AZdesert, I live here in Phoenix. If your mom is what I consider "a challenging personality," all things age-related become that much harder to deal with. That said, anything you can do to gain a handle on this situation is a godsend. My mom was/is also very suspicious/insecure about others being involved in her money. But one thing she did do was to add me to her checking account. Both our names are on the account and checks. So this allows me to pay bills, etc., writing a check. One difference: I do have her checkbook, so she isn't writing any checks on her own. Another thing that others have pointed out: I only use this account to pay her bills, as it is only her money in this account. I can justify each and every check written if needed as related to her and her personal care. Once my name was on the account, I was also able to obtain a debit card in my name to make purchases and make ATM transactions (again solely for her). Definitely do not do your transactions from your mom's account. Also try now to photocopy her driver's license, insurance cards, charge cards, and just work really hard to seize opportunities to obtain info that might help you manage her situation now and down the road.
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While getting yourself on her account as signatory might help you ensure her bills are paid, what is to stop her from spending that money before the bills are paid?

If she is deemed incompetent, you would not be able to secure any kind of POA. However if she is deemed incompetent, you CAN apply to be representative payee by SS. As I have told others, SS does NOT accept any kind of POA. It requires applying for this position, and if approved a special account must be set up with you as rep payee for your mother, and only her SS can be in the account and only YOU can access this account. It does require keeping good records and reporting at least yearly how those funds are used (they have specific rules about how the funds are to be used - none can be used for you.)

I would recommend documenting all the issues she has with finances (or getting medical confirmation of mental incompetence) and then/meanwhile making an appointment with your local SS office (calling the main 800 number can result in a long wait and in the end the only way to apply is with a face-to-face meeting.) Although incompetence can more likely assure being approved, documenting inability to manage the SS funds CAN be used to determine whether she needs someone to oversee her SS benefits, it just might take them a little longer to do the research.

Although you are listed as this special account "owner" you will in NO WAY be responsible for any unpaid debts. You will merely be managing the funds to pay for housing, food and care for your mom. NO ONE can make YOU pay any outstanding debts from your own funds.

Some see this as government intervening, however as noted SS does NOT recognize POAs and if/when intervention happens, they can investigate what you have been doing with her SS benefits. This is the best/easiest way to ensure you have control over mom's finances (in no way was this "simple", but it was one of the easiest transitions I had to make - appointment, approval, set up new account, deposit first check sent, then request electronic deposits to that account - they even have some kind of online reporting, but they also provide a sheet to list all the payments made on mom's account.) I would highly recommend this for anyone, but even more so for someone who does not live locally to the person needing oversight - all documents would then also be sent to you, including tax paperwork. This was the main reason I did this as there was no way to change her address (we were just using her regular account, which had pension/SS deposited, we are all on the account and have DPOA, but needed to change address to get paperwork sent. Again, SS and other federal entities do NOT accept POAs of any kind other than their own!)
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@Isthisrealyreal thank you for your willingness to share your experience. I don't wish to be dragged into her debts; I just want to be able to help manage her regular bills and maybe intercept bad financial decisions that she may make if possible. But that might not be possible until she is declared medically unable to manage her own situation. I'd be happy to PM you. Thank you.
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@Llamalover47, does that mean I would not be legally able to replenish that account if she falls short? I think I understand what you're saying: Medicaid would probably consider that as income that could potentially put her over the eligibility limit. Good point.
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If you open an account with her in AZ, you are joint account holders. I live in AZ and have gone down that road, if she overdrafts it will be up to you and it will show up on your credit. I have DPOA which means nothing unless my dad is incoherent or declared incompetent by a judge. I don't know how all this works anywhere else but, I have had a hard nine month education on how it works in AZ. My dad bought a vehicle and that is when I withdrew from all accounts, I am not willing to pay for that stupid choice. He is in AL and I fortunately can not be prosecuted for any bad choices he and his caregivers make. We did set up online banking and paid his bills before I had any paperwork in place, so if you can get online set up you don't really need to be a signer, have mom make you the POD beneficiary so any money left you can access to pay outstanding bills.

You can private message me if you want, I have #s and such I would be happy to share.
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As others have said here on this thread, DO NOT comingle your monies into her's. Medicaid has strict laws.
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Thank you all for chiming in! I actually dropped by my bank today to ask about this, and they're going to set me up with a consultant to talk to. It seems that I might be able to open an account with my mom as the primary account holder, yet I'd have access for using it to pay her bills, which I'd try to do with auto-pay, as many of you have. I would have FPOA, but they indicated that it could be set up so that she could still access it for groceries, etc., which would be great. I just want to make sure the utilities are paid on time (or at all), and possibly have the ability to easily transfer some of my money into her account for emergencies...but, as everyone has said, to keep my personal accounts separate from this one. I also want to know that as FPOA I would have the ability to designate that money for future care when the time comes, such as rent for a care facility. I'm learning that many of the care facilities in AZ will use SS income as the rent, and Medicad/ALTCS for the care. Almost everyone I know who has gone through this has worked it out this way. In some ways, I suppose it is more simple for us in that my mom's only income is SS, and she only owns her reverse-mortgaged condo and a car that's currently in impound (a separate story, that!). We're just now applying for Medicaid, which she is embarrassed about. Next step is a neurology appointment, if she'll agree to it. I'm also learning that I am the absolute LAST human being she wants to listen to...another thing that I'm finding is common. I'm also learning that I can do a better job of listening to her, too.
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I have guardianship for my DW. But we have separate checking and saving accounts, sort of.Our joint checking account has been used solely by her for several years now. Her SS goes into that account and mine goes into my separate account. Same with savings accounts.
I Pay all of the normal bills that I have always have paid, food shelter, utilities, etc.
As guardian I only take money from her checking account for items that are only for her, like clothing, diapers, unexpected medical, etc.Her saving is frozen as far as withdrawals go.
The Judge allows me to with draw up to $250 a month for her expenses, if needed.
Should there be an expense beyond the $250 I need court approval and the bank will only allow me to with draw money from savings if I present an invoice. The bank says it will them cut a cashiers check for the exact amount of the invoice to the billing company.
If she had recurring monthly bills I could set set up automatic payments for those and still be safe. Fortunately none of those exist, save for dental insurance which I must have withdrawn from my retirement check.
All of this was done to protect both of us and so far it is working. I do not charge her account for my time.
All of this even worked this year with the IRS after I file their form for guardianship.
Just some ideas you might be able to use.
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I'm pretty sure there would have to be 'representative payee' information designated either in a DPOA or forms filled out for using her SS check or any government benefits
Either that or declaring her incompetent and going thru other measures.
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Sounds like a great idea. Ditto what gladimhere said. Hugs. Been there. I was not a signer or owner on moms acct, but I was her Poa and the bank had a copy of the document. I used online access to control moms acct. Only her ss went in. Only her bills went out. The bank statements were the papertrail. When I wrote checks I signed her last name, which is the same as mine and nobody questioned it.
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Ask social security about becoming your mom's Representative Payee and what that would involve. You would need a doctor's letter saying your mom couldn't handle her own finances. You set up a special account at the bank specifically for representative payee situations - it would be under your mom's name with you as the Payee. The social security check can be direct deposited into that account. Best to keep your money and hers separate. Its a big step...
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I second some other comments, in that I think you need to deal with the POA issue, but separately from that I would think getting signature authority on her bank account , would allow you to do what you want, but still leave the account in her name, for tax purposes, etc.
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From my experience, you're only delaying the inevitable. If she won't let you be listed on her checking account for signing purposes it's time (her regular MD?) someone had her mental capacity established. You sure as heck don't want her to forget the supplemental health insurance payment...and that is what almost happened here as my mother did a slick job of covering her dementia. Ultimately with my father's blessings I siphoned off all the old unneeded receipts and papers I found, got a file box and organized everything, and we did the POA stuff. BTW, I discovered the problems one day when I happened to be home and found something in the drawer re a payment...it was not the first time she had forgotten to pay the supplemental...we were just lucky they have had the same for decades and they had a gracious grace period. ALso, watch for snotty types at the bank to act as if you are the evil daughter ready to exploit your poor old mother. Be assertive and demand a manager if that happens with an underling or take the account elsewhere if you can.
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Letting her handle the fallout from her bad choices without putting yourself at risk or using your own money. Bad analogy. She may never learn but, enough is enough. Why should any offspring be required to pay for a parents bad choices? My parents would not care if I ended in the gutter if it meant they get their way. I think that S.S. will be bankrupt before I ever draw, so why should I give up my ability to eat in the future so they can continue to make selfish bad choices?
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@Isthisrealyreal, I very much doubt that “teaching her to fish” is going to work at this point. From reading the OP’s question it sounds like they’re financially dysfunctional going way back, and that’s not something you can teach a 58-year-old out of (speaking as a 55-year-old here!)

To the OP: It is going to be hard to get DPOA, let alone any kind of guardianship, because your mom is relatively young and hasn’t been diagnosed with any sort of memory loss condition. What you might be able to do, though, is ask her to sign a conditional DPOA, I’m not sure if that’s the right name for it. It would basically grant you all the powers of DPOA “in the event of” something happening to her ability to function and make decisions. I would advise getting both medical and financial DPOA in this conditional manner. That would set her mind at ease that she can trust you aren’t trying to take things over prematurely. Good luck!
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I just removed myself from my dads accts. You will be responsible for the over drafts or God forbid she ends up in any legal battle you will be pulled into that, try to get her to let you do on-line bill pay. You don't want to have to fight financial battles that are not yours. Having a joint account opens you up to having to deal with issues that are better left for her alone. Stop bailing her out if she won't let you help. She knows she can do whatever she wants and you will pay the consequences, time to teach her to fish and stop giving her fishes.

Best of luck finding a solution that works for you both.
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AZ...I also live in Arizona and recently both of my parents died of Alzheimer's. This is what we did and it worked great. 
1. You can download all of the poa forms on the state website.

www.azag.gov/seniors/life-care-planning

Only one of the forms needs a notary and the DNR needs a medical professional''s signature. No lawyer needed.
Fill out all the forms and make several copies and scan them into your computer. I even made small copies I carried with me.
2. Super easy to become a signer on her account. I called the branch where my mom had gone into a lot (when she still could) and the wonderful banker met us in the parking lot on the way home from rehab from a broken hip so mom didn't have to get out of the car. The banker can also notarize the general durable poa paperwork. Checks still remained the same with just her name. Be sure to get a debit card in your name..but on her account. This is all done on the same paperwork. Set up an online account and choose the option of no mailed account info to her. Pay as many bills as you can online. Change the addresses to you.
You will need poa to even talk to her insurance company, etc.
Good luck to you. Let me know if I can help any more. Arizona has a lot of resources including house call doctors and palliative care that included a social worker therapist.  It's easier to get this taken care of now...harder later.
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Long-distance caregiving is very difficult. I sympathize, having tried it. Hugs to you.
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Hi AZ,

You may want to consider speaking to a lawyer about any liability you might incur if you are a joint owner of her account; if you are not her POA. One suggestion, the bank may allow you to have signature authority only and that would still keep your mom as sole owner of the account. However, your mom will have to give her signed permission, in person, at the bank. But again, I’d suggest seeing an attorney. Many allow a 30 minute free consultation.

I sympathize w/you & your mom going through this difficult experience. So many people here are great advice & moral support & I hope you come back often. Best wishes to you & yours.
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Hello AZdesert.
I'm helping out an elderly couple, he's 90 years old having Alzheimer's, his wife is 85 with acute Parkinson's. I've being friends with them for 32 years. They have a daughter who can't be responsible for them. She's a little slow comprehending her parents situations even though she's 58 years old. Since they didn't have any other relative willing to be responsible for them when they asked me if they could grant me a Durable Power of Attorney. I accepted it after seeing how they lived alone and neglected. Immediately with my husband's help I arranged to have them moved into a retirement home with assisted living. Social Services was there to guide me. The DPOA gives me access to decide how to manage their money. M&T Bank after verifying the legality of the DPOA allowed to have my name written with their names on their accounts as their POA. I can transfer money form their savings accounts, pay bills with checks printed along with my name along with their as their POA. After talking to Social Security, they advised me to go into a branch in person and have my name add to theirs as their POA,, as their contact for whatever changes or information I need to have or make. Perhaps the first thing you can do it's to have your mother agree to grant you a "Durable Power of Attorney" As I understand a DPOA in accordance with the grantor- s they can pick and choose the rights they wished to grant. It's 12 pages long. Signed and sealed by a Notary Public and a Lawyer you're set to help your mother. The only problem I have now it's to see how hard it's for them to give up being in control of everything specially their money. They want to know every detail of what I'm doing. It's their right to do so, but It's driving crazy since the gentleman forgets the second I told him and the wife hardly understand how things are done or need to be done (Her husband was in absolute control of their money and all other affairs.) I spend lots of time being a "broken record" and It's wearing me out. I spoke to a lawyer and he advised to let them know somehow, having them to understand that we had reached a point to decide to grant voluntarily a full guardianship thru the DPOA or have the court decide for them, making them understand that whoever gets it from then on this person will decide for their best interests without consulting them for everything and every step it's done to help them. Perhaps you can start with the DPOA convincing your mother that it's necessary for you to pay her bills etc. etc. She may go for it and help you... I know how hard it can be. I wish you good luck.
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I've been on my mom's bank account for six years and handle all of her bills. I haven't had any problems, although now I'm a bit worried after reading gladimhere's comment. I moved in with her 5 years ago and am her full time caregiver. Instead of paying myself, we just share money. Basically my payment is my room and board. I hope she doesn't end up needing medicaid because I might have really screwed that up.
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I was on my Moms acct before my POA set in. I paid her bills with no problem. Just remember that SS is direct deposited. Even if tyouvset up an acct you may have problems switching accts with the correct approval.
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I would think so as far as normal bills are concerned. But, you must be very careful that you do not comingle funds. Pay only her bills from the account and only deposit her money to it. Do not make any donations, gifts, etc. Money is only for her needs and care and living expenses. Any expenses that cannot be followed up without proper documentation would be held up to scrutiny by Medicaid should she ever need it. If you want to pay yourself for this service that would have to be under a contract with her.

It would be better to get the POA. If not in place if she becomes incapacitated, without POA in place, the state may be in a position that they would take emergency guardianship and conservatorship to take care of her and her money. This would take all control away from her and her family. Which would she rather? Get her an appointment with an elder law attorney, they would be able to tell her some horror stories of what happened to people that did not have the documents in place.

Why just financial POA. Does someone already have her health POA? That is just as important.
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AZ, it sounds as though you are torn between letting he state take over mom's care and tricking her into putting your name on her checking account. Do you want to say more about what is happening?
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