Laurie MacNaughton  © 2017
I was proud of myself: I got through the whole appointment without saying what was on my mind, namely, “Holy cow – you look just like George Clooney.”
But I also didn’t say the other, more pertinent thing on my mind, which was, “Your parents are in their mid-90’s and you’re only now starting to talk with them about powers of attorneys? How can this not have come up until now?”
I get it – it’s a weird task with loads of emotional baggage in tow. Even after my parents were both diagnosed with cancer I had a hard time broaching the topic.
But on the other hand, speaking as one who frequently deals with issues related to not having documents prepared in advance, let me say this: please, PLEASE, if you’re the adult child of aging parents, ask your parents if they’ve prepared their documents and have kept them up-to-date. If they have not, encourage them to do so in terms as strong as you can muster.
As a reverse mortgage specialist here’s a scenario I see far too often:
Last year mom began showing signs of dementia, but dad was coping with her care. Now, however, mom has completely lost it, dad has medical issues of his own, and he’s no longer able to meet mom’s needs. Finances are under strain, mom and dad need in-home care, and eventually may need to apply for Medicaid.
But dad cannot sign documents for mom. And you, as the adult child, cannot sign for either mom or dad.
Why not? Because they never drew up their Powers of Attorney appointing an agent to act on their behalf. If dad can still make executive decisions, he has the opportunity to draw up a Power of Attorney. But mom? It’s too late.
Here’s why: once someone is mentally incapacitated, the Power of Attorney option is off the table because powers are granted to an agent by an individual who has the mental capacity to do so. This means once mom has lost her mental faculties she can no longer grant you, or anyone else, the power to make decisions for her. So now the court needs to step in and appoint a Conservator and/or Guardian (these are two different roles, though the same person can be appointed for both). In very broad terms, a Conservator deals with fiduciary matters and a Guardian handles legal and medical affairs.
The court gets involved because once a Guardian or Conservator has been appointed for mom, she loses many rights and responsibilities – a decision the state does not take lightly.
The process of becoming Conservator and/or Guardian typically takes a couple months – though emergency guardianships are possible – and can cost several thousand dollars. A little bit of pre-planning can avert substantial cost and non-inconsequential hassle.
As life expectancy continues to rise, many of us will deal with the needs of aging parents. If no planning has been done, in a moment’s time we can find ourselves dealing with an emergency but no legal authority to make decisions.
So please, talk with your parents. Now. Before there is an emergency and no easy solution.
And, if you have questions about reverse mortgage give me a call. I always love hearing from you.