My Durable Power of Attorney vs. Armed Forces Insurance (AFI)

afiOn a recent visit, I find my mother has written a check* for $495 to Armed Forces Insurance (AFI). I had no knowledge of this insurance plan and my mom had no recollection of what it was for, she just paid it. Sometimes my Mom will set it aside and hand over bills and other times, she will pay them. It’s really only been a major issue when it comes to magazine subscriptions which is why we have a subscription to Birds & Blooms until 2025. This is the first real bill she has paid in a while.

I find a copy of the invoice and contact the customer service department. They were very helpful and just asked that I send in a copy of my durable power of attorney. The customer service representative offered the option of emailing or faxing. YEAH!

I emailed the durable POA with my address and request for documentation on what the insurance is for. It was a list of personal items and jewelry. As I review the list, I know my Mom no longer has some of the items. She has handed over some of the jewelry to children already. I set it aside to address later.

Three weeks later, I get a call from AFI.  They want to know if they can help answer questions and if I’m aware that the policy needs to be renewed. The woman on the phone kindly walks me through the steps needed to get online access so I can renew and make the needed adjustments to the policy.

Armed Forces Insurance, not only made this easy, they followed up and helped me get this settled. Of course, they wanted payment, but they made the process of reviewing and accepting my Durable Power of Attorney what we all thought it would be!  Psyched. 

* My Mother was not ready to give up her checkbook so I opened a second account with limited funds that I monitor. It is not ideal, but it helped smooth the transition of the bill pay activities and protect their real checking account from a major loss of funds.

USAA vs My Durable Power of Attorney

usaaTwo months ago, my mom sent in a payment to USAA for a policy we believed was cancelled in January.  As we were going through the move with my parents from Independent into Assisted Living, we tried to make changes to their policy. When USAA refused to make the changes we requested, we decided to cancel the policy and purchased new insurance. That was the quickest and easiest way for us to resolve having the insurance company accept our calls to make adjustments to our parents insurance policies.

My initial call on 5/7/2013 to update the address and straighten out my parents insurance policy started off badly. The woman on the phone asked me for a lot of information about me and my husband — birth dates, employer, social security numbers — and I was a little put-off.  I stopped her and asked her why she needed this and she admitted she was interested in updating the records she had on me since we were eligible for USAA.

I am sure my voice was not pleasant when I asked her to just help me resolve the issue that I called about. She continued to try to engage me and got an earful. At first she tried to suggest I complete the USAA version of the power of attorney. I explain that my parents no longer have the ability to sign over this power — and the durable power of attorney was done for this reason and should suffice. She finally provides me with the fax number and directions to get my request resolved.  She tells me it will take about 2 weeks to have the durable power of attorney reviewed and I would hear back from USAA confirming their receipt of my request.

When three weeks passed and I had not received an acknowledgement, I called back.  I’m told they don’t show receiving either of the two 11-page faxes I sent to the number provided. The gentleman promises that when they receive the documents, they will put it on the fast track and I should hear back within a few days.

I just resent both copies of my Durable Power of Attorney in today — I will let you know when I hear back and the outcome. Aggravated.



The Digital Keys to Your Estate

digital keyIn the past week, The New York Times has run two stories on two different angles of our modern-day lives. 

The first story posted on May 24th Leaving Behind the Digital Keys to Financial Lives discusses the real life issue created that is not being addressed in current financial or estate planning. Our financial lives are online – we have paperless statements, automated bill payments as well as credit cards on file with several of our treasured online services. If you have not documented these, your loved ones would have no clue on how to access this information. This goes beyond the roster of accounts and includes the online access codes and details with those accounts. This is the prime problem I created the MemoryBanc Register to solve — it helps individuals catalog and share this information if it is ever needed. 

What most American’s fail to recognize is that until our 80s, we are more likely to suffer a disability than die. You may very well be on this planet and need to have someone in your life access and manage your affairs for you – if even only temporarily.

Don’t forget about the $58 billion sitting in state and federal treasuries. This is not a new problem.

The second story is from May 25th Bequeathing the Keys to Your Digital Afterlife which deals with the issue of all those online assets, like photographs or even your blog. Google is the first to set up a provision for this and hopefully, the other online firms will follow. Hoped.

How about you?  Take this quick poll now.

Where Government Services Crush U.S. Financial Services Firms

ssaMy visit to the local Social Security office was incredibly prompt, professional and courteous. In order to best serve my parents needs, who are both in Assisted Living at a retirement community, and suffer from varied but moderate stages of dementia, I reached out to the Social Security Administration (SSA). My initial request was to change the address on their MEDICARE statement. It turns out that is based on the information stored with SSA, so I was referred to that agency.  The woman from SSA on the phone suggest I set an appointment. She finds and makes me one 9:04 a.m. and that is within one week of my initial phone call.

I’m told to show up with the power of attorney and the name, number and address of a doctor than can confirm why a personal representative is needed for my parents.

When I arrive at the local office today, which opened at 9:00 a.m., there is a line of people out the door. I check to see if they have appointments, and am told they are in line to get an appointment. They point me inside and I walk up to an empty window to check-in for my 9:04 a.m. appointment. I am told to take a seat and I will be called. Within a minute, I’m called. When I reach the window, the woman is friendly and I explain why I requested the appointment.

She explains that I will be asked several questions and under penalty of perjury if I provide false responses. I’m okay with that … most people know I have a truth problem … not a lying problem! She asks me several questions to confirm that there is no conservator or guardianship process in place, requests that I explain why I’m qualified to be the “personal representative” for my parents, and takes me through a battery of questions that are pre-printed on the request form I must sign to initiate this process.

Most of my initial discussions with U.S. Financial Services firms have involved them refusing to accept my parent’s power of attorney and insisting that I download their version and get it executed. When I push back, I have gotten a variety of responses that will be covered in future blogs … and that will illustrate how simple the SSA made it to deal with this growing issue for American citizens.

The woman from SSA gives me her contact information, explains how the process works and shared that I should receive a note within 2 – 3 weeks confirming how to change the address and modify the account. I walk out of my local SSA office in under 30 minutes! They have just set the benchmark on which I will be judging the other institutions who are on my list. Impressed. 

Does the Durable Power of Attorney Make Assisting a Loved One Easier?

I recommend that EVERYONE have one, but it is not as simple to use as most of us believe. medicarecaredI am embarking on a journey to use my parent’s updated Durable Power of Attorney (POA). We worked with their medical team to ensure we could have them sign a new one. The one they did in 2002 needed to be updated because MANY banks refused to accept it – several stating they would not accept one that was more than 2 years old. 

In the interim, my mom and dad helped get me access by adding me to their bank account and then helping me set up online access to several of the big accounts that needed maintenance. I am embarking on a mission to get their accounts cleaned up while I have a fresh POA. I will be sharing with you the different institutions and what they are requiring of me to get access to my parent’s accounts. It takes hours, days, weeks … so I’m thankful this isn’t a critical medical emergency because I know in that case, we would NOT have access to the accounts, information and would have to cover many of their expenses had I not been added to the bank account already.

The first one I will cover is MEDICARE. I simply wanted to update the mailing address so I called from a billing summary. The mail doesn’t forward from the Post Office change of address notice and the letters are being mailed to my parent’s in Assisted Living. Unfortunately, that means I don’t see many of the bills and notices. I called to update the address and after some time navigating the automated phone system — I finally reach a human. I’m told I have to report the change of address to the Social Security Administration (SSA). They just receive the information from SSA. The person on the phone gives me a phone number to call.

When I reach a person at SSA, she is very helpful. She explains to me that I need to come in and meet with them to request to become the “representative” for my parent’s. I can bring the POA, but the most important thing I need to bring is the number to the doctor that will confirm my parent’s are unable to handle their own affairs. She offers to set an appointment and is surprised to find me one next week.

I will share with you how that meeting goes … next Wednesday … starting at 9:04 a.m. Endeavored.

Will the Power of Attorney work when you need it to?

I beat the drum on the issue of a Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA). I had one for my parents, but one financial services firm rejected it because it was more than 2 years old, a second who said they won’t accept one more than 5 years old and their insurance firm said they would only accept the version they created. This statement shocks many who believe they are covered.

POAIf you have any concerns about your DPOA, I recommend you speak to a lawyer who is dedicated to the practice of Estate Planning. They should counsel you that there are some instances where you may need them to follow-up to ensure the DPOA is accepted. It’s one of many reasons to not use an online legal service for your estate planning needs.

When you are getting your wills, and power of attorney done, I strongly urge you to find a lawyer who ONLY focuses on Estate Planning. The state and federal laws and rulings are constantly changing and those issues are things the estate lawyer can help you with. We found one to get a DPOA for my parents that would be accepted by their banks and insurance company. If you had a heart condition, you would not go to a general practice doctor, you would see a cardiologist. Look at finding a lawyer who specialized in estate planning when you are updating these documents.

In reality, there is more to organizing your estate than just having the legal papers in place — you need to get it organized and setting up online access is a huge benefit to a loved one if they ever need to step in and assist you.

To learn more about the DPOA issues check out a story in The Wall Street Journal –  Power Grab! Signing Over Power of Attorney to a Loved One Has Never Been Trickier. Here’s What You Need to Know. 

To get your personal, financial, online, medical and household records organized so they are easier for you to access as well as share with or pass onto a loved one, visit 


Divide and Conquer and the Modern Family

My husband and I married in our thirties and we have the divide and conquer philosophy on many of the household duties. My friends and colleagues have mentioned divvying up financial and household matters. When Consumer Reports recently cited that only 30% of couples knew the major financial assets and how to access them, I was not surprised.

ModernFamilyWhile I hope we are not as wacky as the family on the TV show Modern Family, to this day, my husband and I still keep our own bank accounts that are jointly titled. We decided to make one the household bill pay account and the other the rainy day savings account.

I am the owner of the bill pay account. When we were first married, I would write checks twice a month. When my career put me on the road, my husband took over the bill-paying duties from “my account.” He immediately set up online bill pay. When my days of travel ended, I took back the bill pay duties. When I first logged in, I didn’t see any of the bill pay accounts. I had wrongly assumed that the bill pay accounts and pending transactions would be available for both online users to our joint checking account. That is not the case; you can only see the bill pay accounts created under your login. I immediately took over my husband’s username and now we both use one login. I’m now on a soapbox recommending this setup to all of my clients.

If either my husband or I were unable to pay the bills, the other could easily step in. Sharing usernames is against both of our banks’ user agreements and if I call for support, they won’t answer my questions because I am not allowed to be in my husband’s account. Silly! I’m not a big rule breaker, but that is one I break all the time.

Now that I am caring for my parents, the online access offered by every company and most state and federal services has been a major time and frustration saver for me. When my parents’ insurance company and the financial institutions that hold several investment accounts refused to accept my durable power of attorney (this is a lot more common than you can imagine and I will cover this next month), my dad worked with me to set up online access so I could act on my parents’ behalf.

Setting up online access to your accounts does not negate the need to have a current will or power of attorney. However, this information will make it infinitely simpler for someone to step in and help if you are unable to manage your accounts, if even only temporarily.

To get your details organized, you can download a free copy of the account and documents checklist, or order the MemoryBanc Register that will prompt you through the process.

I hope you will consider making this change to how you manage your household accounts and bill payments. It’s a kindness your loved ones will appreciate if the information is ever needed.

– Kay
Kay Bransford
Chief Curator and Founder, MemoryBanc

Did you know that a Durable Power-of-Attorney won’t help with financial institutions?

durablepoaIf you haven’t already faced this, you will find that the Durable Power-of-Attorney (POA) doesn’t work with U.S. financial institutions. At least that has been our experience, and I have heard from dozen’s of others who found the same issues.

Most financial institutions and insurance companies want the POA to be their version.  A court battle would most likely get you what you need, but we all were thinking this legal tool would be easier to use than it has been.

Three months ago we started to pursue filing a lawsuit for guardianship of my parents. After meeting with many professionals and a little soul-searching, we wanted to first exhaust all other methods. We knew our parents would understand the nature of the lawsuit. Our parents were (and still are some days) resistant to any assistance. We had their friends, doctor and the retirement community suggesting that we do something to help my parents move forward with more dignity — most suggested we pursue guardianship which would allow us to make all the decisions for our parents that they would be unable to overturn.

We recognize how hurt our parents were with the loss of their cars. They didn’t remember that a doctor had written a note to the DMV and their licenses were revoked — so my dad continued to drive. While they initially handed over the keys, they continued to tell everyone their kids stole their car.

We felt the move for guardianship would be a direct hit on my parent’s dignity. There had to be another way to move forward without causing more hurt.

I upped my weekly visits and I have worked to adapt to better serve my parents needs on their terms. Most days, my mom understands they are on the waiting list for assisted living and while I’m sure this won’t be easy, we are moving closer to the right solution for my parents. Reflected.

Can a Geriatrician help us move my parents in a positive direction?

you're itAfter we got the diagnosis from the Neurologist  (Vascular Dementia for both and my dad also shows signs of Alzheimer’s) and I had questions about medicines, we were referred back to their primary care provider. They haven’t seen their “assigned” primary care provider in two years. The last time we met with this Doctor, we were concerned because my dad seemed depressed (personality change). The doctor did not even notice my dad had lost 20 pounds in a year.

I felt it was important for them to see someone who specializes in treating older patients. I asked if we could be referred to a Geriatrician.

My brother was in town, so we could divide up the appointments. My dad and brother were with the doctor for an hour and a half. When I get in with my mom, we find out that the doctor is primarily interested in getting to know my parents and discussing their medical history and current health.

As he talks with my mom, he learns that she has no memory of any prior medical history. She plays along at first and agrees she saw a Neurologist once but tells him no one has ever prescribed medicine for her. He tells her she has seen the Neurologist three times in the past few months. That shocks her.

The doctor has a very nice manner. He leans in and looks directly in my mom’s eyes when he asks her questions. He gives her his full attention and she is very open in response. After he performs the mini-mental exam, he asks if she has considered signing over guardianship to someone to make her decisions.

My mom is perplexed and tells him they moved into the retirement community, and I handle the bill payments. No one has expressly had the discussion with my parents regarding the fact that while my parents planned to back each other up — they are both unable to manage that responsibility. Thankfully, my sister got them to complete the Durable Power of Attorney and Medical Power of Attorney, but I think when we sign those papers, we all assume they would get used when you are unconscious and unable to speak for yourself.

Their doctor heads straight into that topic. I’m not sure my mom fully understood what it was he was driving at, but I’m guessing most of his counsel was meant for me. Tapped.