Alzheimer’s and the Financial Care of our Loved Ones
Planning for the Challenges Ahead

Helping aging loved ones to manage their finances can require a delicate touch, and a lot of empathy.  As they enter their twilight years, simply checking in to make sure that bills and premiums are paid on time may be all that is needed.

However, with the onset of Alzheimer’s or other mental incapacity their affairs can become complicated, and advanced planning is something we should all consider.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, one out of every eight Americans over 65 is afflicted with the disease. For Americans over 85, 43% are stricken.  Modern healthcare will allow our parents’ generation to live longer than those before them.  The Social Security Administration estimates that 25% of today’s 65-year-olds will live past 90.  Taking steps to plan for an aging family member’s wealth is essential, as it is for ourselves.1,2

If and when it becomes necessary to manage a loved one’s finances, certain key legal documents are usually required.  Also, once a loved one’s mental capacity becomes diminished, it is much more difficult to obtain these legal documents.  This is why planning in advance is so important.

The advice of an attorney who specializes in Estate Planning is essential in this regard.  A power of attorney will allow you or the person appointed by your loved one, to assume explicitly stated measures of financial responsibility.  Without this detailed legal document, financial institutions may reject any claim of authority over your loved one’s assets.3

A springing durable power of attorney will take effect after a person’s mental incompetence is confirmed with a medical diagnosis.  An immediate durable power of attorney grants you or the person your loved one has chosen to be their agent, the ability to control their finances immediately.  Copies of the power of attorney should be sent to all financial institutions that have a relationship with your loved ones.  Some investment firms will require the account owner to sign over permission for you to access their account. In these cases, it may help to get a durable power of attorney before your parent is unable to make financial decisions.4

To begin managing a family member’s financial affairs, you will need to know:

–          Social Security numbers

–          Account numbers for insurance policies and checking, savings or investment  Accounts

–          PIN numbers for all accounts

–          All sources of income (SSI, pensions, investments, etc.)

–          The location of any wills, deeds, and trust documents

–          The designated beneficiaries for insurance policies, IRA’s, etc.

–          A complete medical history and prescriptions

–          The wishes of family members and associates who have a stake in your loved one’s wealth

If Alzheimer’s has already incapacitated your loved one, you will need to consider a conservatorship.  The request to become your loved one’s conservator is made through a family law attorney.  Your own family attorney can also petition the court in more time-sensitive cases. Either way, you will be required to show medical documentation of dementia to the court.

To grant a conservatorship, the court will interview all involved parties and perform a background check on the proposed conservator. The court will present its decision at a hearing. If granted a conservatorship, you will assume control of all or a designated part of your loved one’s assets.

If you are new to the process, it is important to understand the difference between a guardianship and a conservatorship.  A guardianship grants the guardian control over many aspects of the protected person’s life.  A conservatorship only grants the power to manage the protected person’s financial affairs.5

In any case, it is essential to protect your loved ones away from unprincipled people.  Plenty of scam artists target older people and the onset of dementia can make them more vulnerable.

A relative, a financial service professional, or a family attorney may also be granted durable or springing powers of attorney as well as conservatorship.  Consider each of your options carefully and scrutinize any individuals willing to take on such a role.

Properly managing a loved one’s assets is an important component of the investment management, financial planning and tax planning process.  Medicare, Medical, Annuities, and Long-Term Care policies need to be reviewed along with the Retirement and Investments accounts.

We are here to help.  Please call or Email us to discuss your families long term care plans.

Citations

1. http://www.alz.org/downloads/facts_figures_2011.pdf 

2.http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/planning-to-retire/2010/07/22/predicting-your-own-life-expectancy

3. http://www.law-business.com/powers-of-attorney

4.  http://www.kiplinger.com/magazine/archives/managing-your-parents-money.html

5.  http://dhs.sd.gov/gdn/guardianshipfaqs.aspx

6.http://www.smartmoney.com/retirement/planning/talking-to-mom-about-alzheimers-and-her-money-1335192298522/

Securities offered through 1st Global Capital Corp., Member FINRA/SIPC Investment advisory services offered through Rawdin-Baron Financial, Inc. Rawdin-Baron Financial, Inc and 1st Global Capital Corp. are unaffiliated entities.