Please know that I am not a lawyer, but was a caregiver to my parents for over five years and offer this advice as a practical end-around to frustrations I faced trying to use the legal tools to help them.
While my parents listed me on their power of attorney, I had a devil of a time getting banks, insurance companies, and financial services firms to recognize it. It was less than 2 years old and Virginia has a statute in place that frees them of liability if they do recognize it (my simple non-lawyer explanation).
Instead of spending more hours fighting them (they received it but then didn’t do anything and then I would languish in their phone trees on hold), I worked with my parents to set up online access. In most cases I could do most things for them online.
As we enter this next phase of novel coronovirus and state and federal mandates, I am worried for the large numbers of older adults who don’t have someone who can step in and pay bills should they become sick.
Some things you can do today to prepare include:
- Go to the bank with your loved one, and sign their power of attorney. It will put you on the account immediately. They may also offer to add you to the account, but this could be an issue since then you become a “joint account holder” that brings other possible complications and risks.
- Set up online access to the account. You can do many things with online access and at minimum it will allow you to monitor the account or step in and help pay bills if your loved ones needs help.
It’s a shame that so many American’s do not have powers of attorney (POA) in place. I believe it should be a right of passage upon turning 18 to set up your first POAs. I did pay for my son to set up a Durable Power of Attorney, and a Medical Power of Attorney for his 18th birthday. I do hope I never have the cause to use them.
We are in strange times. I hope this gives you some ideas of how you can help should you need to step in and help a loved one who doesn’t have their estate plans in place.
If you have the time, now is a GREAT TIME to create POAs, and get a Will in place and have a discussion about the finances. To find a local elder care attorney, you can visit the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. Recommended.