Venting over 92 yo father's mistakes

colorcrazyJanuary 31, 2014

For more than 50 years, my father has poured all of his money into commodities and stocks. He churns them, so he has nothing to show for it. Paychecks, inheritance, pension (lump sum), second mortgage, everything. I told him for years that it was the same as gambling, but he didn't listen. He is the prime example of what not to do.

He and my mother divorced in '89 and spent a fortune on lawyers, fighting over money. At the time, I told them both that I was not helping them later if this was how they chose to spend their money. (I was trying to get them to stop fighting.) He and his 2nd wife are now reduced to living on SS and his 7K Navy reserves pension and making minimum payments on the debts. He even forgot to pay his property tax.

This morning, at 9:30, he called to ask if I would pay off the $36K that he owes Bank of America. I said no. Told him I would be glad to sit down with him to look at options like selling the house (his wife wants to move to town). We don't think he will get enough to pay off all the debt, but will decide later if he has to declare bankruptcy.

He has not filed taxes in the last three years (he would not owe anything). I am trying to get him to understand that it would be next to impossible for us to find all the relevant papers and file after he dies. What a mess!

Tomorrow, I will go to his house and get more specific information and try to get him to do his taxes. (He used to do taxes as a side business, so this is not an unreasonable request.)

Aaaargh! Thanks for letting me vent.

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Dealing with elderly parents can be frustrating. As people age, it unfortunately can happen that their worst qualities grow to overshadow their good ones. And new bad tendencies can develop too.

My father died a few years ago in his early 90s, after about 12 months of decline and poor health. His passing provided him relief, but the relief it provided to the members of our family (because of how awful it was to deal with him during his last 10 years) can't possibly be overstated.

I think you're taking the right approach by offering help but still keeping your distance. Good luck to both of you.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2014 at 1:34PM
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It does sound like a mess, but it is not your mess.

Maybe he doesn't have enough income to file taxes. My sister never has to file because she has an income of less than $14,000..

If he dies and owes debts and taxes you do not have to pay them. It will fall on the wife.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2014 at 1:39PM
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That's right, it's not colorcrazy's mess, but he is colorcrazy's father.

It's what they call role reversal - adult children having to step in and get involved with the affairs of their parents. This has happened in my family and with so many other people I know. Parents may get to a point when they need some form of help or intervention from their kids. Whether due to illness or the beginnings of dementia or forgetfulness, or even healthy elders who simply get overwhelmed with what they have to deal with.

It's not easy, that's for sure.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2014 at 4:48PM
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Staring down that road and it's not easy at all. My elderly and legally blind mom does share her financial information and accepts our help on some things, but on other things she is fiercely independent and is making more frequent mistake. For example, I have also found a few overdraft notices recently, because she can't see to balance her checkbook and didn't make a transfer from her money market account in time. She has also paid bills in the wrong amount or put the wrong check in the wrong envelope.

All her mistakes have been simple mistakes and not errors in judgment, but none of them would have happened if she would let us help more. It's not that she doesn't trust us, we do help with much bigger issues, but it is more her pride at stake. We've offered to help but that is all we can do now. I think a few more OD notices and mistakes might push her to finally ask. It is sad. Most of this stuff would be so simple if she could see, but time consuming and impossible when you can't. I don't want her to lose her independence, but I don't see that a little help would undermine it.

It is hard on her and it is hard on us, I am lucky because I still have her around and she is comfortably financially secure. I just hate to see it so hard on her, even if her pride is her own worst enemy. When it is my daughters turn to take over my finances, I will welcome the opportunity with open arms!

This post was edited by mojomom on Sat, Feb 1, 14 at 11:47

    Bookmark   February 1, 2014 at 2:39AM
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Thanks, all. We went out there to find out that he is a hoarder of paper. It was stacked in every room except the two baths. Horrible! Most of it appears to be junk mail. He would not let me toss anything, but my step mother and I went to lunch (while my husband and brother installed a stair rail). Step mother said he does let her throw out stuff. Imagine how long it will take to clean DR, LR, 3BR, attic, and basement! She wants to sell the house this spring. Not very likely. She said she has no idea why she let him get away with this. We had not been there in years, because she was embarrassed. We always met them at restaurants.

So now I will try to just be a sounding board for her. I suggested taking some photos and showing his doctor, but he does not have a regular doctor (military health care). She will take the pix to the hospital and see if they will give him an appointment. Sigh. I never want to get old!!!

    Bookmark   February 1, 2014 at 5:53PM
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My guesstimate is that your being supportive - in a non-financial way - is as good as can be done right now. But a hoarding situation is something else again.

My father was a paper saver, but only as concerned finances. It was neat and out of the way, but in no particular order as to dates, etc. My brother and I got real adept at separating the wheat from the chaff and invested in a good cross-cut paper shredder. We found all the cost basis information, organized brokerage account statements in chronological order, etc. etc. No issues with paying taxes.

An Aunt, on the other hand, turned out to be a treasure hunt. Everything was there - from companies that didn't exist anymore to those companies that merged many times over the years, changed names. Every notice of CD roll-overs for decades. Bank accounts in eleven banks across two states. Again, no issues with taxes; and her returns were useful in discovering what she had and pointed us toward some things to look for.

None of this helps you much with what you're going through, but it does seem to be something many of us have dealt with at one time or another. If the current wife is amenable, she will be the one in need of the most help. And will likely be glad to get it from you.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2014 at 7:00PM
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I suggested taking some photos and showing his doctor, but he does not have a regular doctor (military health care).

Is he on Tricare for Life? If so, he should have a regular doctor - Tricare calls them PCMs (Primary Care Manager).

    Bookmark   February 1, 2014 at 7:30PM
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Depending on where they live it may be advisable to put the papers that need to be shredded in a box then take to a shredding service. Most shred machines will overheat if used to long. Some as short as 15 minutes.

My mother was a hoarder and I had to clean out her house. A dumpster is a great idea if you can find a company that allows you to rent for a long term as you do need to look through all the papers as you may find checks that were never cashed.

You might want to check with the company CompuServe to see if he has any accounts set up by stock companies. You will need his SSN and hopefully his permission. I found that I had missed a couple of small dividends when I checked on my own.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2014 at 7:48PM
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If you do consider bankruptcy, don't let anybody on a forum tell you what is and is not protected. Each state has different bankruptcy laws.

As an example some states allow you to keep your home, and others say you cannot.

A bankruptcy consultation is free, so keep that in the back of your mind.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2014 at 7:03AM
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Advice for people reading this thread who will be heading into this kind of situation in future years ....

Try, try, TRY to get yourself or a trusted family member gently and increasingly involved in elderly parents' or relatives' finances far ahead of the crisis point.

I started helping my grandmother with paying her bills YEARS before it became a mental-capacity problem for her, then segued into arranging her savings, then signature rights and tenants-in-common (or whatever it's called) on the accounts for my mother and myself with the grandmother. My mother is the only child, granny was widowed in 1964 and never remarried so our situation is different than most. We had no problem keeping all of it in order when granny deteriorated to the point that she didn't even realize she had utility bills and such.

On the other hand, granny's sister and brother-in-law, who had no children, were secretive of their finances, and very uneducated/unskilled in handling it. We tried to help and give advice in early years but they refused ... even when granny tried to convince her sister to allow it due to how much more comfortable she was with the assistance we had provided. It was a small mess when they deteriorated to the point that my mother had no choice but to forcibly get involved.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2014 at 7:19AM
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I meant the financial mess. Children do not have to pay their parents bills unless they signed for them. Some people do not know that.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2014 at 3:06PM
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Thank you very much for all the info and support. I will tell my step-mother about Compu-Serve, Maifleur. Christopher, we are lucky in that my step-mother's granddaughter is a CPA and an attorney. She will advise as we go through this. Dadoes, I am trying to convince my step-mother to have my father declared incompetent, as he is not doing a good job of managing his finances. Emma, I know I am not responsible, thanks, but I am upset that they plan to never pay off the credit cards and die with an outstanding balance.

My father's parents were excellent money-managers, and my brother and I have no debt. Seems it skips a generation!

    Bookmark   February 2, 2014 at 9:59PM
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Sorry this is landing in your lap colorcrazy. Hope your father accepts your help and things get better.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 11:39AM
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Acadiafun, thank you for your kind words.

Maifleur, I looked for CompuServe and only found a news service. Am I missing something? Thanks!

    Bookmark   February 17, 2014 at 11:43AM
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Consider contacting your local Department on Aging or its equivalent. Depending on where you are, there may be a wealth of resources or very little to help at this point. Some cities/counties/states recognize the need to address decline and dysfunction in their elderly residents and have created resources to assist families in your situation. Other places, not so much.

It does sound as though your father may be having a decline in his capacity to manage his affairs. Do you know if he ever created powers of attorney or health care directives?? If he has, it may be time to implement them - usually done via doctors' simply attesting that he is compromised, and the plan he constructed then kicks in. If he has not created a plan (powers), you may face a very complex, lengthy and expensive medical/legal vortex.

The VA absolutely should be a resource. Unfortunately many VA systems are equipped to step in only when health and safety issues become dire. Do inquire though, and repeat your inquiry through any portal you can find.

I have spent years on this issue professionally. The arena is a mess in most places and you will have to be persistent, patient and lucky to find the medical and legal resources you will need. I sincerely hope you find help.

And for anyone reading, please, PLEASE, PLEASE create powers to spare your loved ones this dilemma. If you cannot afford an attorney, then google your state and find forms to download and complete. Most times, ANY documents are better than none - and usually are sufficient to spare persons and their families protracted and expensive court journeys.

Just do it. Notarize the paperwork. Place copies with loved ones. Done.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 9:06PM
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Sorry I messed up the name of the investor company. Try cut and past

    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 9:27PM
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Thanks, Celticmoon. You are right, and I'm guessing my father has not done that. Thank goodness my step-mom's grand-daughter is an attorney!
Thanks, Maifleur. That worked. Will send to my step-mom because the site requires you to know the names of the companies.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 7:30PM
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We were going out to my father's house for two hours at a time every weekend in March. Every other weekend in April. Made progress, but they kept pulling out more stuff. (The strange thing is that the stuff my sister and I wanted (dolls, etc.) were already gone.) I was able to get photos of my great grandparents. Then my step mother asked me to pay for a dumpster. (They had already paid for and filled three dumpsters,) I said OK. We went out the weekend before it was to arrive and bagged up a bunch of paper, books, junk, etc. and set it in the driveway.

A week later, my brother said my father was going through the bags and pulling out paper to keep! So we got busy with other things and stayed out of it. My father called my brother a few weeks ago, and in the conversation, my brother learned that the dumpster was to be picked up the next day, and it was only 1/3 full. My poor brother worked all day finding stuff and pitching it into the dumpster before it was hauled away. He said it was 2/3 full.
I am certainly not paying for another one. My step mother had wanted to be out by April. ha! Looks like maybe next April.

My house is not the tidiest in the world because we both have hobbies. But the "public areas" are clean and I would not be embarrassed if someone looked in the closets. I guess everyone is different.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 11:48PM
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Colorcrazy-If your father has Tricare Prime he should have his own personal doctor. I have one, and a shrink that Tricare pays for. I go to a drugstore that accepts Tricare to get my medicines at a greatly reduced rate. Tony served in the Navy for 20 years, so we have insurance for life. Call the VA and I am sure they can give you the number to Tricare and maybe you or his second wife can get him to a doctor.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 7:50AM
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