Planning for Old Age

In a recent article titled, “Look Who’s Moving In With Your Aging Parent,” author and mediator Carolyn Rosenblatt addressed concerns relating to the care of aging parents’ finances. In the article, Rosenblatt told the story of a 78-year old man named Arthur who suffers from early stage dementia, a mental illness common among men and women aged 65 and older.

Arthur, who was left alone after his wife’s death three years ago, has two sons, Joe and Greg. About a year ago, Joe and Greg discovered that Arthur was bringing “stray women” and prostitutes into his home to keep him “company.” Concerned that these women would try to take advantage of their father’s finances,-a thought at least partially provoked by the fact that several of the women offered to marry Arthur,-Greg had Arthur sign a Durable Power of Attorney. Under the Durable Power of Attorney, Greg had the authority to manage and track Arthur’s spending and to take title to Arthur’s house. Unfortunately, Arthur’s sons quickly learned that financial planning options other than the Durable Power of Attorney would have been more effective.
Shortly after effectuating the Durable Power of Attorney, two women-who had met Arthur under the pretense of an offer to fix the broken fence at Arthur’s home-moved into Arthur’s house. Not long thereafter, Greg noticed several large withdrawals had been made from Arthur’s bank account. As it turned out, Arthur had gone to the bank with an attorney and had had the Durable Power of Attorney revoked. No longer able to control Arthur’s spending, Greg turned to the law for help. Greg, to whom title to Arthur’s home had been transferred, acquired a court order evicting the women. Unfortunately, no less than twenty-four hours after their eviction, Arthur let the women back in to the home. The women-one of whom was a heroin addict and the other of whom had convictions for prostitution and possession of narcotics-continued to cost Arthur his retirement income and savings despite Greg’s best efforts.
Since the women were let back in to Arthur’s home, Joe and Greg have tried to address their concerns through mediation, but to no avail. At that point, Joe and Greg’s only option was to have their father declared financially incompetent and involuntarily subjected to a conservatorship. Rather than relying on the easily revocable Durable Power of Attorney, the means of managing Arthur’s estate should have been determined at a time that Arthur could have voluntarily submitted to a financial conservatorship. At seventy-eight, Arthur is a victim of the all too common effects of aging upon the mind. Had Arthur considered the possibility of these issues and accounted for them early on, he and his sons would likely not be forced to resolve their issues in court. The moral of Arthur’s story is to plan ahead. Arthur and his sons will now have to go to court, where a judge will likely respond by limiting Arthur’s rights. Had financial planning been undertaken before the onset of Arthur’s dementia, Arthur and his family would have saved themselves both time and money. Early planning is smart planning.
If you or someone you know would like to make advanced plans for an aging parent and the potential for that parent’s future diminished capacity, or if a contentious situation has already arisen and there is a need for damage control, please do not hesitate to contact the experienced probate and estate planning attorneys at Chepenik Trushin LLP for an initial consultation.