Diminishing Capacity and Self Help

One of the realities of old age in these times is that a significant portion of the population who are over 80 have some form of memory impairment.  As family members start to notice tell tale signs of these problems they will often consider taking “appropriate” steps to make sure that affairs are in order.  Often, these self help steps create more problems than they solve, here are a few.

  1. Internet and Office Store Powers of Attorney.  Many people realize that someone will have to help with business affairs in times to come.  But, being lawyer phobic, they choose to do internet research and they find one of many popular legal forms sites where they can pay for and download a simple power of attorney form, take mom or dad to a notary, and get that checked off the list.  The problem is twofold: 1, those forms are usually just the standard statutory forms for each state and they do NOT have the expanded powers that will be necessary in order to obtain access to Medicaid Nursing Home benefits; and, 2, they create a false sense of security that the POA problem is checked off the list.  Statutory POAs are fine for adults up to their 70s with no capacity issues because they can still be redone. The smart thing to do is to see an elder law attorney. Any attorney can do a “competent” POA but competent is not necessarily sufficient.
  2. Changing Bank accounts.  Lots of helpful children of elderly people will take them into a bank in order to “change over” the bank accounts so that the child can “sign on the account.”  This is completely logical and usually done with absolutely no motive for self-enrichment. The problem is that the signature card at the bank controls the legal ownership of the account.  It is often the case that “personal bankers” do the easiest thing is to just add the child as a co-owner to the account. This can cause significant issues. Never take a banker’s advice on the law, talk with an elder law attorney.

As people age they tend to lose the acuity that they had with youth.  Taking the right steps in small ways can make all the difference.

This article is written by an attorney at Attorney Donald Wyatt PC. Always consult an attorney before making any legal decisions. To make an appointment today, please click here to contact us.