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Out of state, elderly relatives--what to do? (long)

Posted by chowder26 (My Page) on
Mon, Jul 24, 06 at 12:40

Good morning all: facing a dilemma here and I hope that this is the correct place to post it.

First, some background: DH has a great-aunt and -uncle, both aged 86, who live in Texas. DH and his brother are their only family. Neither DH nor brother live in Texas, we are all two states away.

Aunt and uncle are both frail, facing a variety of health issues. Nothing that will be fatal immediately, although one hard fall or other unexpected event could send one or both into a downward spiral that they could not stop. Knowing aunt like we do, it is likely that her telephone reports of their health are masterworks of "spin". That is her way. But mentally, at least, I believe they are okay, for the moment.

We have begged, pleaded, cajoled for years for them to move closer to their only family. They have flatly refused. We have had to accept this.

Aunt and Uncle have asked DH to serve as both personal representative and executor. Brother is aware of this and it is not an issue.

My question is this: what have you done to get the point across to aging relatives that there is a certain amount of paperwork that must be done prior to their incapacity if they want someone to serve as their legal representative?

Aunt and uncle have a will, naming someone as executor who is unable to serve. They know they need to have that changed but are digging their heels in at the very idea of having to spend money to have it corrected.

Living wills, medical POA, general POA....aunt airily dismisses these as mere technicalities because after all "our doctors know what we want".

I'm not sure what uncle is willing to do as he is virtually deaf and cannot hear on the phone. So I have put several requests in writing. My guess is that uncle is more sophisticated and realizes the need for these but, again, aunt is the telephone filter.

I have asked several times for aunt and uncle to make an appointment with their attorney so that we can fly there and ALL sit down with the attorney, make sure their paper work is in order, make sure DH knows what he has to know to do this job, etc etc. Aunt diverts attention when I make this request by pointing out that their will is airtight (never mind the fact that the executor is incorrect).

The will is the least of our concerns. It's the paperwork that DH will have to have to make decisions for them BEFORE death that has us up nights. The fact is that she doesn't want to spend the money to sit down with an attorney. We know that our window to get this done is narrow and closing fast.

Any advice? Any experiences with this? The out of state factor is a huge difficulty but with full time jobs, a small child, and a MIL with alzheimer's, it's difficult to hop on a plane at a moment's notice.

We are at wits' end. I would appreciate your wisdom. Thanks.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Out of state, elderly relatives--what to do? (long)

do you know the attorney? If so, I would call and make an appointment to see him. Then I would tell the elderly ones that you will be there at a certain time to take them to the lawyer's office and that YOU ARE GOING TO PAY HIM.

Don't waste time arguing. Just do it. Point out to her that it's going to cost money to go before the courts to have a judge appoint an executor. It would be cheaper to have it done NOW.

Now, if you get there and she flat refuses to go...which I doubt that she would do.... you and your husband go see him anyway so that he can be aware of the family situation. He will be able to advise you as to your next step. When you make the appointment, mention that you would like to get them to fill out forms for POA, Living Wills, etc. Then he will have time to have everything prepared and ready for signing.

Try to convince her that even though her doctors know what she wants, the hospitals will have rules that they must follow too.


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RE: Out of state, elderly relatives--what to do? (long)

AgnesPuffin is right on, as usual. I do think that you will need to just schedule more time with the relatives. Yes, it will take your time and travel, but you can't do it all long-distance. And as they age, you'll probably make more trips to visit and take care of them in the coming years, for as long as they have.

I know that when my Mother was 750 miles away, I drove down there about every 6 or 8 weeks for a couple of years before I could convince her to move here for the last 3-1/2 yrs of her life until she passed away in December, just 13 days shy of her 96th birthday. Before she moved here, I had times when I got a call that she had fallen and was in the hospital with a broken arm, or something else, and I had to drop everything and literally catch the next plane to Phoenix. Not fun, but it was my job, and someone had to do it.

Also, if they have a lot of property/money, talk to the attorney about a trust account for their home and bank accounts. We set that up for Mother, and it has saved us thousands of dollars in legal fess in closing out her estate. Be sure that your DH is on all their bank acocunts. I can't begin to tell you how much easier this makes things when the time comes that they are unable to care for their own affairs, A time which will come, sooner or later.

I can't say much more than prepare yourself for a lot of time and travel, and all your powers of persuasion.

Good luck, and keep your chin up!


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RE: Out of state, elderly relatives--what to do? (long)

The problem is with someone that old is that sometimes they don't quite have what it takes to initiate changes of any sort. So that is why someone has to step in and start the ball rolling. It's going to be highly unlikely that she will of her own free will call the lawyer and tell him what she wants.

If you set up the appointment first, then it is likely that she will go along with it with little discussion. If she does start up a fuss about going, then that's a pretty good sign that she is having more problems than is good for someone in their position.

Waiting until there is a fall or stoke or something else serious will mean that you have to make decisions in an emergency. That's seldom a fun thing to have to do. A trip to the bank might be a good idea too. Find out what that particular bank requires for a POA. Some want a special one that is just for them.

Good Luck!!


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RE: Out of state, elderly relatives--what to do? (long)

Mum did absolutely NOTHING about any sort of planning, aside from a will. Her health took a precipitous dive in spring '03 and I began receiving calls from concerned friends. Mum never let on that anything was wrong. The "spot" on her bladder was the size of a walnut and fully malignant... , so malignant in fact, that she now has an urostomy!

My brother and I simply demanded she deal with a living will before her surgery. We saw an attorney skilled in elder law and saw to it that we both have power of attorney and that I am medical power of attorney. She was pretty mad, but so were we... after all, who is going to be charged with cleaning up the details when she's gone?! The reality is most elderly have NO idea how the systme is stacked against them... they think people will "know"... they don't "get" that the system loves people as naive as they are... more money to be skimmed.

Faire. and Agnes. have given you good advice. I can tell you, from personal experience, that you want to get these things in order before the s--t hits the fan.


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RE: Out of state, elderly relatives--what to do? (long)

Good morning all, and thank for the feedback.

Agnespuffin: unfortunately, we don't know the original attorney and now Aunt is saying that "he was too expensive, maybe I need to get another attorney who is less expensive and closer to where we live". Otherwise, I would have been on the phone with him immediately to discuss the situation.

But you're right, we may have to just do some detective work, sit down with the attorney and hope that he will talk to us (keeping confidentiality in mind) and give us some guidance.

You also make a good point about their level of resistance may be in direct proportion to the level of difficulty they are having and don't want to admit to.

Fairegold: you really went through it with your mother--she was lucky to have you during those last few years.

I had thought about the trust account too and didn't know how to set it up...again something to discuss with the mystery-attorney.

Chelone: "most elderly have no idea how the system is stacked against them...." You are SO RIGHT. Especially here, because Aunt and Uncle, for various reasons, avoided the day-to-day care of their parents as their (the parents') deaths approached. They have absolutely no idea.

UPDATE: Although DH is the person that Aunt and Uncle have asked to do these jobs, Brother is the person who seems to have the most sway with Aunt. Brother called this weekend and threw his support behind DH and me, as far as getting these things done, it won't be that expensive, very important to take care of the POAs, etc, in case Aunt is unable to make decisions for Uncle, and vice versa.

Unfortunately, the feeling that Brother came away with is that Aunt and Uncle somehow have the idea that all this is because we are "after their money". Despite the fact that we have emphasized over and over that that is not the issue....taking care of them while they are alive is the issue.

It is disheartening to be thought of as underhanded. If letting this go didn't mean more work and heartache for DH later, I would just throw up my hands and let it go. But he'll just keep at it (when the time comes) and a failure of nerve now will just make everything so much worse later.

Oh and another thing: now they want to name their neighbor as the Medical POA, because they're closer, etc etc. I can see that that could be a nightmare (ie what if Aunt and Uncle want no extraordinary measures but neighbor cannot agree to that, etc). It just keeps getting better and better.

Thanks for all of your help. So much to think about.


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RE: Out of state, elderly relatives--what to do? (long)

Now, her wanting the neighbor to have the medical POA might be a good thing. At least, she will have to have a lawyer to set up a good one. Once she sets up a living will and a medical POA, the hospital/doctor would be more inclined to honor those wishes rather than the neighbor's. The neighbor really wouldn't have any say in it if everything is carefully laid out in a medical POA and Living Will. About all she could do is OK the admittance to a hospital and OK calling a doctor. Again, all those documents can be done without a lawyer, but try to convince her that she needs a lawyer to be safe. That's what will convince her. Safety.

How old is the neighbor? The neighbor might not want to serve in that capacity. Most people wouldn't want to make decisions for a non-relative. but it at least would open the door for getting her to a lawyer.

Is your husband and the brother the only living relatives? If so, they would be the next of kin only when both the aunt and uncle die. The problem is not so much the will, State laws will take care of who gets what, but what can be done with funds and property to keep it safe for their use should they need a nursing home. That's would be the BIGGIE. For as long as one lives, the other is the Next of Kin. All sorts of problems arise when things need to be done.

Good luck.


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RE: Out of state, elderly relatives--what to do? (long)

"After" their money... I'm quite certain that sort of thing happens routinely, and it is a voiced sentiment very indicative of the level of concern the elderly harbor for their assets/resources and their future welfare. We received some of that "static" from Mum, too. She was furious when we dragged her to the attorney's office. But we left the room after the brief intoduction and some discussion about why were there. We then left the room, leaving Mum and HER attorney alone in the office.

A solid 1/2-3/4 hr. later we were called back in. Her attorney had spelled out the realities of "estate planning" to her, patiently answered all her questions, and she was satisfied that the attorney had set up the documents that would best accomplish her wishes with respect to her property. This is why you want to see an attorney well versed and specializing in "elder law". Don't allow them to pull the "too expensive crap" with you. Pay for it yourself!

I am now facing the grim prospect of putting Mum in long-term care. I want to wretch whenever I think about it, but she is increasingly burdensome and the reality of my life is that I HAVE to work! I am only somewhat comforted by the knowledge that the legalities have been addressed, but it certainly eliminates one major source of stress and doubt!

Stick to your guns and get them a good lawyer who will represent THEIR wishes and interests. Hang in there, it sucks while you're doin' it, but it does make things easier.


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RE: Out of state, elderly relatives--what to do? (long)

"We then left the room, leaving Mum and HER attorney alone in the office."

There's the rub. The relationship between attorney/client is unique. The attorney MUST be theirs -- representing their interestes only. This may or may not be something they will agree to undertake. You can suggest and facilitate but they have to do it. Sorry for your trouble.


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RE: Out of state, elderly relatives--what to do? (long)

asolo,

You have missed the point, I think.

The beauty of the attorney/client privilege is that both parties may speak candidly and what they say to each other may not be used against them in the future; it's CONFIDENTIAL. It is precisely that aspect of the meeting that allows the precise nature of estate law and the fears/worries/concerns of the elderly to be "put on the table". It is the wise attorney who outlines the process the court will follow after the client dies, carefully detailing the ramifications of failing to "dot the Is and cross the Ts".

My mother was a devoted follower of late-night "talk" radio. She thought she had it all "wired". Until she spent that crucial 1/2-3/4 hr. closeted with HER attorney! She spelled it all out for Mum... and, as her ADVOCATE and counsel she set up the legal documents that would ensure Mum's wishes were "given teeth" in the legal sense.

A skilled attorney works for the ELDERLY PERSON, not the "beneficiary". I know my mother was greatly relieved after speaking with her attorney and voicing her concerns/worries. She had a few remaining questions that were cleared up with a few phone calls, but when the documents were prepared she didn't hesitate to sign them.


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