The In-Between Stages of Competency

12.28.18If you live far from your hometown, you may be used to seeing large changes in aging parents from year to year. However, if you are involved in their day to day life, you may not notice the changes, or they may seem to come and go.

When you are close to your parents, it’s hard to judge their competency accurately. Your dad, who was the perfect driver, suddenly isn’t quite as good behind the wheel as he used to be. Or your mother, who never left the house without being perfectly groomed, seems to have become a little casual about her appearance. They aren’t big changes, but the change is rarely sudden.

Other examples can be if your father forget to pay a bill…. or forgot that you called him yesterday. You recognize all this and ask if he is okay. He doesn’t think there’s a problem.

Is there anything you can do? No one would ever say, at this time, that he is legally incompetent to make decisions, because he presents himself well. That’s the issue discussed in Forbes’ recent article, “Aging Parents At The In-Between Stage: Partially Competent and Partially Not.”

Here are some strategies to consider to help you to address this situation:

First, both the senior parent and the adult child must be in agreement that something has to change, and fast. Next, examine the parent’s legal documents, specifically the Durable Power of Attorney. In some cases, the daughter is appointed as the agent, and her power is unrestricted. She has legal authority to take over management of the father's accounts. Nevertheless, the daughter may not have discussed this with her father and, likely, she has not exercised any authority as agent. The daughter should review the Durable Power of Attorney with any siblings. She should then access her father's accounts, so she’d know if her father is giving away money or perhaps caught up in an elder fraud. If there’s a significant problem, she needs to approach her father.

The father might refuse any help in managing his finances. However, gentle and respectful persistence can win the day. The Durable Power of Attorney can be used to move most of his assets out of accounts where he had access. He still could give away money, but she then could restrict what he had available.

This shows the importance of doing estate planning and having at least one responsible person, the daughter, to act as the agent with power of attorney.

Be aware that even a slightly incompetent senior, who seems to be okay on the surface, may have lost their ability to make good decisions about their finances. You may have to step in to prevent themselves from doing damage, to protect their retirement and their finances. Speak with an estate planning attorney as soon as you can to make sure all the protections necessary are in place, including a Durable Power of Attorney. This is not a situation that can wait. If a plan is not already in place, start with a phone call today to start the process.

Reference: Forbes (December 3, 2018) “Aging Parents At The In-Between Stage: Partially Competent and Partially Not”

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