New Caregiver-Need Financial Advise

bettyd_z7_vaJune 3, 2009

We are moving DH's aunt in with us. She has no children and nobody else in the family will step in to help.

After DH's almost 18 year old son has lived with her for 3 years, she is in very bad financial straits. DH was severely injured at work last year and we were in and out of the hospital most of the last year and step son took advantage of the situation to clean her out financially. We have gone to the bank and gotten on her checking account so we can pay the bills. I have been to the Dr with her and he is aware that she is coming to us and needs assistance.

I don't know exactly how to go about legally getting the ability to handle her finances and not get into the position of being responsible for her financially(out of our $$$).

We DO NOT have the ability to care for her financially. She is 76 years old, has a house that she has borrowed against with a 30 year mortgage and we aren't sure at this point what else she owes. I know she bought step son a truck and is making payments. It is in her name.

Neither she, nor us have the money for an attorney right now.

Has anyone here been through this and can you give me a checklist or suggestions on how to go about the steps to being able to handle her finances to take care of her and not get ourselves in a financial mess. I'm not sure what to do or where to start.

She has a government retirement check from 36 years of working in a mental healthcare home as well as a social security check each month.

She has been put on memory meds, but I'm not sure if the Dr has actually given a dementia ot altzheimers diagnosis. she is begging us to take care of her bills. She thinks her CVS (meds) bill that comes in the mail every month is some kind of game that costs her to play and she wants to get out of the game. She asked the DR yesterday to get "them" to quit sending her that stuff in the mail. Step son has taken her for a ride financially and is expecting her to give him her house. We hope to be able to sell it so she can get out from under that financial burden. At the bank we couldn't get her to understand that she just refinanced it 2 years ago with that 30 yr mortgage. She thinks she only has a few more months to pay on it. HELP!! I'm lost at this point.

Any and all help will be ETERNALLY appreciated.


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You will want to have created 1) Durable General Power of Attorney and 2) Health Care Power of Attorney. These are common documents and shouldn't cost very much. I assume the Aunt is willing to give you these powers. If she isn't, only alternative is the court and conservatorship -- which is much more expensive.

You will want specific wording in these documents enabling you to act without providing anyone with "evidence" of the aunt's incapacity. Takes just a few additional sentences but is important. These documents will enable you to act on her behalf but will not obligate you financially. They are not expensive but will need to be prepared by an attorney so you can be sure of them. While your at it, have a will and living will drawn up if she doesn't already have them

Upon execution of these documents, cut the step-son off immediately and dramatically. Find out what else he's done and if any property titles have changed hands. Sell the truck. Sell the house. Get a restraining order if you have to. This fellow's a skunk.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2009 at 11:15AM
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Thank you so much for your quick response. She just called me saying a deputy had left a warrant for her because she hadn't paid any on her heating oil bill. He called back saying it was our fault because we told him to order oil after he had told us there was no money.???????
We haven't even talked to him about anything, much less heating fuel!!!
Gotta go see the Company to try and work something out. Just paid taxes and house insurance yesterday because the bank was having a fit because she had let the insurance coverage on the house lapse.
Must walk on water and other miracles for the next month or so until we play catch up!!
Thanks again,

    Bookmark   June 3, 2009 at 12:02PM
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Something wrong here...."deputy"? in police officer? Police officers don't get involved is this kind of thing. Must have been agent for the oil company trying to collect. Suspect mis-identification. If he represented himself as a police officer, he's in more trouble than you are!

Don't understand your statement about waiting a month. You can accomplish everything this afternoon if you want to. I would encourage sooner rather than later.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2009 at 12:20PM
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I am so sorry for your dear aunt's difficulties. I realize this is not what you want to hear, but at this stage of the game, you really need to see someone who is a legal expert, someone who deals with elder law. If you have some sort of department on aging in your area, contact them and briefly describe the situation. They might be able to point you to inexpensive legal aid. Or you could contact your nearest AARP office. Asolo has described the needed documents. A good lawyer can provide the specific language needed to protect both yours & your aunt's interests. But, she needs to cooperate. If that's not possible, then you might want to reconsider your entire rescue plan.

I agree with Asolo, this is a serious situation. It sounds as though the aunt is not capable at all of handing her own affairs plus she's been taken advantage of by her nephew. It might be time to call in adult protective services.

And, as she suggested, if the truck is in your aunt's name, there's no reason why she couldn't take possession of it and sell it. But without her cooperation & understanding and your legal standing assured, you could get yourself in a whole heap of trouble.

You really need to spend a couple of days calling every government (local & national) agency you can think of to get some help and get started in the right direction.

This is a great forum, but none of us is truly qualified to give you specific financial and legal advice for your unique situation. We can encourage you and sometimes point you in the right direction. But when it comes to legal and financial matters, you need to deal face to face with someone who is qualified, knowledgeable, and experienced. Paying for help now could very well save you thousands of dollars (and emotional wear & tear) in the future.

I'd suggest that you put off physically moving the aunt in with you until you have all the legalities in order. Once someone is in your house, your liabilities change. You could be open to charges of elder abuse or neglect if you leave her alone and she gets hurt. That kind of thing...

    Bookmark   June 3, 2009 at 3:39PM
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Unfortunately, you need not only legal help, but the assistance of your aunt's doctor. If she is not judged mentally competent by him, the only way you are going to get Power of Attorney is through court action.

She MUST be held mentally competent by her attending physician in order to sign a legal document. And from what you are describing, that sounds doubtful without approval of the county court.

You can get low-cost legal assistance as mentioned above. Keep a record of your expenses and you may be able to get reimbursed, in the event her house turns out to be worth anything. At the very least, keep those records for your own taxes, in case you contribute at least 50% of her upkeep you can list her as a dependent.

Even if she is living in your house you do not have any legal liability for her debts, but shambo makes an excellent point that you do not want to get into a "he said, she said" situation with stepson, especially when it comes to any future inheritance.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2009 at 10:27PM
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You are never responsible for anyone's debts unless you sign for them. When you get the papers, if she has no assets that are free and clear or income that fits their guidelines, she may be eligible for Medicaid. If she goes to the hospital don't sign anything.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2009 at 10:48PM
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Asolo, We live in a very rural area and the local Sheriff's Depts handle the service of warrants that have been issued to companies who are trying to colect debts. I just retired after working in a local Sheriff's Dept for 26 years. That part I am familiar with, but eldercare and the laws concerning it, I have no clue.
I went by her house and picked up the warrant yesterday afternoon so I would know when the court date was.
I have called a local attorney this am about the paperwork we need to get signed. She will probably be willing to sign it if we stress the fact that the companies, (and in this case the judge), won't even talk to us until we can show proof that we have control of her finances and are acting on her behalf.
The statement I made about it 'taking a month' meant that I will have to sweet talk a bunch of bill collectors into giving us a month or so to play catch-up with the bills. She had gotten a satellite dish for her house because he wanted it. (She has NEVER watched TV. Hates the noise.) When her money got tight she couldn't pay the bill. They cut it off, but she still owes hundreds of $$$. The same thing with a cell phone he just had to have. A bill came in 2 days ago for almost $300.00 that she owes for his cell phone. She is behind in phone bills, electric bills, you name it.
Thanks again for all of your help,

    Bookmark   June 4, 2009 at 11:05AM
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The plot thickens. Would need more details but.....

If things are this far out of hand, wondering if bankruptcy would be a viable alternative.

Assuming she's willing and legally competent, the powers should be fast and easy and get you where you need to go regardless -- without obligating you personally for payment of any debts.

That step son really needs to get slapped!

    Bookmark   June 4, 2009 at 11:16AM
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You don't have to sweet talk anyone, tell them not to call you again or you will call a lawyer or the police. Don't get yourself worked up over it. If bill collectors hassle you that is against the law.

There is nothing they can do to you or to her except ruin her credit which is probably already down the drain. If she has no money there is nothing they can do except put a lien on the home. since it is already mortgaged, they can't get anything there. My husband's son hid from bill collectors and the bill collectors thought they had moved in with us and they wouldn't leave us alone. I found out later I could have filed charges against the collectors, because they weren't our bills. I was told even if he was living with us, they are not allowed to hassle us or him.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2009 at 9:15PM
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stargazzer-"You are never responsible for anyone's debts unless you sign for them. When you get the papers, if she has no assets that are free and clear or income that fits their guidelines, she may be eligible for Medicaid. If she goes to the hospital don't sign anything."

Stargazzer is right. Whatever you do, make sure you do NOT co-mingle any of your bank accounts, etc with hers, especially with the stepson in the picture. As long as he lives in the house, he will have some influence in what is being done. I'd keep a record of what he does so you have proof to give to the authorities, etc if it is ever needed.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2009 at 1:44PM
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Thanks for all of your responses. She's had some medical emergencies in the last few days and we had to bring her into our house sooner than planned.
We never leave her alone. Stepson is not staying at her house since she has been here. When we went over to get some of her clothes and personal stuff, there were dirty clothes thrown in the floor (that she would have picked up and washed for him if she had been there) but no further signs of him.
Hoping to get the POA papers signed this week. Will keep you posted.
Thanks again,

    Bookmark   June 12, 2009 at 7:37AM
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Betty, your husbands Aunt was financially fine until his son moved in with her.

The son sounds like a looser, change the locks on Aunts house. The "kid" is out there and has keys to Aunt's home, change the locks before he trashes it more.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2009 at 8:34PM
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Betty, also check with your local Adult Protective Agency and ask about financial elder abuse. Different states may have different rules, but you might get a restraining order to keep him away from her and her money.

It's scary how often this happens.

Here is a link that might be useful: Financial abuse of elders.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2009 at 9:00PM
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Just wanted to take a minute and thank everyone again for their advice.

We got the POA, Medical POA, and living will signed last Thursday.

Still in the process of moving the things she wants to keep to our place.

A couple of issues I'm not sure how to handle:

1) She wants to contribute to the grocery fund and that's great because she eats everything I fix her plus whatever is on our plates if we turn our back for a second! She gained 4 lbs the 1st week she was here! And as she feels more comfortable here, she is scarfing down everything she can get her hands on! I buy stuff to use in recipes and go to get them the next day and she has eaten them all!
She had lost about 65 lbs in the last year or so and finally told us last week that she hadn't been financially able to buy groceries at her house. What was bought was quickly eaten by YOU KNOW WHO.
The problem is - How do I figure a fair amount of $$ from her account monthly for her food and personal care items?

2) I want to try to keep some kind of journal or list of things we buy for her, places we have to take her(Drs appts, tests, etc) and things we do for her. If you knew that side of the family you would understand why I KNOW I have to protect us from future alligations of misuse of her funds. Any ideas on the easiest way to do this?

Any suggestions would really be appreciated.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 9:08AM
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1) Just set a small nominal amount unless this is a real hardship for you to buy groceries. $20 or $25 a week at most. If you think it's a lot more, than just pay some attention to your grocery bills for a month and compare to months before she came to live. As for household goods like soap or TP, just ignore it. Personal toiletries are hers to pay for.

2) Just get a spiral notebook. I'd keep it private, fill it in like a diary at night, out of her sight. I wouldn't tell her about it, or let her see you do it.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 9:49AM
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You've done a lot in a short time....good on ya!

Simplest way to do the journal thing is just keep a log/diary and make entries as you spend money or act for her benefit. No need to be meticulous. Just enter dates and info. The issue probably won't come up but, if it does, you'll have the information there without having made yourself nuts keeping detailed record. Sushipup's spiral notebook idea is the way to go.

IMHO, most folks eat a lot more than $25.00 worth of food in a you're preparing and serving. Be reasonable, but realistic. If she's capable of paying her own way, she should do it. Don't be timid about this. You're essentially saving her life, here.

From your description, there appears to be no way to avoid suspicion and accusations from others. You're wise to expect it and be ready for it. Assuming you conduct yourself reasonably -- which it certainly sounds like you're doing and intending to continue -- there's no reason to take any guff from these folks. No need to be angry about it if/when it comes. But do be firm in your stated position. You're bearing all the burdens. You're entitled to some respect for it.

Did the sleaze-bag step-son get the message?

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 12:33PM
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A very big Thank You for the tips on record keeping.

I will try to start one tonight. 'Till now I've just noted Dr appts. on calendar.

I wish she did eat just $20-25 a week. She eats everything in sight. I have to make DH's next day lunch before we eat dinner or there's nothing left. I've really gone through my freezer just trying to make it to the end of the month for my retirement check to get deposited so I can buy more groceries!!

Once we catch up on all of the behind bills and pay off S-son's cell phone,sattelite, etc., (He put everything in her name) we will have a little extra to spend on her from her check.
She was so spastic about the warrant for the heating oil bill that we took $$ out of our savings and paid it before court day. That will be the first thing to come out of her retirement check.

S-son called yesterday to say he had finally gotten a job. I'm doing the happy dance now! Hope it lasts. This has really taken the wind out of his sails because his Dad made it plain that there was NO MONEY. He's had to figure out how to come up with his own party $$s.

She is talking about selling her house to get out from under the payments. 2 possible issues with that. 1) With the economy I'm not sure we can get enough to pay off the loans. 2) That house was built by her Daddy and NOTHING has EVER been thrown away! I'm dreading trying to clean out the house and multiple sheds/buildings.

All and all, things are settling down a little. Stress level has dropped a notch.

All of you have been my life raft. Can't thank you enough.

Oh yeah, DH's Mom (Aunt's sister) has called and gone by the house repeatedly to try and get anything she can sell out of it.
She knew everything that was going on and has already been there and carted off everything of value she could fit into her car before we found out how bad off Aunt was. (Such a sleeze bag.)

In case you are wondering where we have been- DH was in a horrific accident on the job early last year and almost died. We spent many days in intensive care, had a long hospital stay as well as return trips for emergencies that kept popping up, and a very long recovery at home where he was practically bed ridden wnth me giving him daily very strong antibiotic IVs thru Pic line straight to his heart.

When we finally got him on his feet and able to go check on Aunt- all of the family vultures had done an awful lot of damage financially as well as helping themselves to antique quilts, dishes, etc. S-son doing the most damage in the $$ dept.

Let's just say I'm so grateful to God that I had the upbringing that I had. Poor DH is a Saint to have turned out as well as he did to have come from that family.

Thanks for letting me vent here. It soooo helps my stress level to get it out.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2009 at 9:01AM
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