Elder Financial Spring Cleaning: Financial Power of Attorney

Who holds an elder's financial power of attorney?  Who should hold it?

The person holding a financial power of attorney should be mature, responsible, and capable of making good decisions.  The gentleman below might not be the ideal choice - no helmet, no body armor - though he is keeping his balance well.

Should the favorite daughter be selected? What about the niece or nephew who is a CPA?  I'd argue that the best choice is the person who  has the best track record of responsibility with money, who doesn't have addiction issues, and who isn't in a ton of debt.  Steady and conservative with money - those would be traits to look for.  And what to stay away from? Avoid a Lottery mentality.  Avoid big, splashy and conspicuous consumption.  

This requires a visit to an attorney.  Draw on their wisdom - they've likely done a lot of power of attorney documents.  Ask about the types of people selected to be power of attorney who are successful.  You're paying your attorney.  Listen to their counsel.


Elder Financial Spring Cleaning: Account Consolidation

Elders often accumulate many financial accounts over the years.  Sometimes this results in accounts getting lost, funds that sit unused, and a heart-stopping stack of statements.  It can be frightening - how do you climb such an obstacle?

Statements and Correspondence.  Locate all the financial statements and correspondence that can be found.  It doesn't matter if they're opened, unopened, new or old.  Sort them by bank, investment firm or other financial institution.  Place them in manila folders in chronological order. Label each folder with the name of the organization.

Review for Dollar Amount and Date.  Look for statements with small dollar amounts - you might start with $1,000.  And look for old statements.  

Consolidate Accounts.  Whatever the dollar amount you've chosen, determine if it's possible to close the accounts that hold less than that amount and deposit the funds into your working checking account or into an investment account.  With old statements, call the organization and see if they still have the money.  You may have to fill out an unclaimed property report.  Click here for information on California unclaimed property.  Put the money you receive into your working checking account or into an investment account.  Mark files you've completed with the date closed.  Check them again in 30 days to be sure odd bits of interest aren't keeping them open.

Aim for fewer accounts, less paid out in bank fees, and an estate that is easier to manage.  Don't forget FDIC insurance stops at $250,000.  If you have questions about any of this, talk with your CPA or estate planning attorney.



What Happens When Siblings Don't See Eye-to-Eye?

Your brother Jack has always been a handful.  And now that your dad is in a facility, he seems to be taking over all the care decisions - even what dad wears and eats.  

Or maybe sister Carmen's insistence that mom push herself and do memory class two times daily is getting on your last nerve.

An elderly parent's care can fray relationships that have been difficult over the years.  Emotions are heightened, the volume goes up, and with the family choosing sides it's looking like Junior and Tony going at it  in The Sopranos

The stress of caring for an elder - whether at home or in a facility - is real.  And it often doesn't improve things between family members.

Cathy Cress has written a book that addresses this issue - Mom Loves You Best: Forgiving and Forging Sibling Relationships.  

A Siblings Guide to Caring for Aging Parents, from PBS, may also  be of help.

Helping your elder parents just may be the opportunity you've needed to clear away old baggage and start fresh with forgiveness.




Cathy Cress, GCM: Frequent Visitation a Benefit to Professionals

Cathy Cress, a gerontology expert, has an interesting video on weekly visitation of health care professionals at her web site.

A Geriatric Case Manager (GCM) with a Masters in social work, Ms. Cress discusses the importance of weekly visits for the GCM, with care provider training being an important side benefit.

Even more important from my viewpoint as a California licensed professional fiduciary is the benefit to a professional of seeing a client's progress over time.

The social benefits for an elder of visits with friends and family are well understood, but there's more. I've seen facility residents who receive frequent visits get more attention and better care.

Here's the link to her site: CathyCress.com.