By Susan M. Graham, Certified Elder Law Attorney, Senior Edge Legal, Boise, Idaho
Are you the family bank? What about your future?
That Sunday in August, George and Alice were still distressed after the party the previous day. Now in their 80s, they had just celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary in the back yard the day before.
All the family was there: their three children – Roberta, Wes, and Sara – seven grandkids, and four great-grands. The grandkids decorated the yard with streamers draped from tree to tree. The great-grands played tag, blew bubbles, dug in the sandbox, and then collapsed. George and Alice sat in the shade visiting with everyone. Occasionally someone would go to the kitchen to get food and drinks. On each of Roberta’s three trips, she filled her red plastic Solo cup with the cooking sherry she knew her mom stored under the sink.
Later in the afternoon, just as George anticipated, Roberta sauntered over to visit with him when no one else was around. She is their oldest, fifty-one years old, pretty, and very overweight. Roberta has been divorced for ten years and struggles with her unhappy life. She works at a call center and lives with her unemployed daughter Kathy in an apartment five blocks from George and Alice. Roberta has been hinting for weeks that she needs a new car. Today she tells her father that she has decided on a Ford Focus. She tells him it will only cost $25,000 with the “add-ons” she likes. Roberta asked if they could go together to the bank this coming Thursday, her day off, to get the money. George put her off, saying he first needed to talk to Alice.
In the last two years, George and Alice have been asked more and more to help their family. Bill, their grandson with two young children, was between jobs, so he asked them to pay his rent. They did so for six months. They paid two years of college expenses for Kathy, Roberta’s daughter, who then dropped out of school and now plays video games. One of the great-grands, Bill’s three-year-old Sam, fell out of a tree and broke his collar bone. Bill and his wife had no health insurance and asked George and Alice to help with the $12,000 bill. Again they said “Yes.”
George and Alice just can’t say “No.” They are starting to panic about having enough money for their own future. Before talking with Alice, George added up the last two years of “helps” for the family. He was shocked that they exceeded $50,000! None of it was or would be returned. George knows that he and Alice don’t have that kind of money to give away. He also knows that requests for more will keep coming.
George and Alice are private people. The only person they confide in is Eliza, Alice’s sister, who lives out of town and calls like clockwork every Sunday at 8 P.M. They told Eliza about the party and Roberta’s request for new-car money. They asked her if she had any ideas on how to stop granting requests without hurting everyone’s feelings. Eliza didn’t have any ideas. She mentioned a friend, age ninety, who asked a court to order that someone manage her finances and pay all her bills. Eliza said that her friend stopped having financial worries and avoids any family pressure. Perhaps that would work for George and Alice, she said.
Monday morning, George called to make an appointment with an elder-law attorney. They met the attorney a week later and concluded it would be a good idea to ask a court to appoint someone to handle their finances and protect them from having to say “No” to all the family requests. It took a few months but the court appointed a professional conservator named Sharp to handle their finances. Now when asked for money, George or Alice just say, “You need to talk to Sharp. It is out of our hands.” What a relief.
- Consider having a court appoint a conservator to remove exposure to financial exploitation.
- Arrange for duplicate copy of all financial statements (from banks, brokerages, credit unions, etc.) to be mailed to the senior’s financial agent named in the Financial Power of Attorney.
Certified Elder Law Attorney Directory: National Elder Law Foundation (nelf.org)
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