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Elderly parents and living on the road


NJTroy

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A couple of people in the Class of 2017 thread mentioned concerns about elderly parents being left behind while on the road. I originally started this post over there, but then thought it was really an issue for all of us and probably deserved its own thread. My DH & I have more experience on this front than most as we managed the very complex issues my parents faced during the last two years of their life. They had complications on almost every front, medical, financial and legal. We've done our best to learn from their/our experience and if I can help anyone avoid some of the issues we faced I would be very happy.

 

Please, chime in with other thoughts and experiences that would help. Our goal is to make our own issues be as manageable for our children as we possibly can.

 

1) Make sure that the legal paperwork your parents will need for you to support them is in place before you go. Three major documents should be prepared, an updated will, a durable power of attorney and a healthcare directive. For assisting them, these last two are invaluable. The healthcare directive (sometimes called a living will) will give them a chance to state what kind of care they want and what they want people to know during any major illness.

 

The durable power of attorney is for you (or whoever will act when they are unable to act for themselves). This will help give you access to their doctors, finances and all other affairs. In our case, this meant that we were able to do everything from file police reports on their behalf, to sell their house, and to manage their healthcare when they were unable. This is a powerful document and the person designated as POA should be chosen carefully. If there are multiple siblings, it is incredibly important that the sibling with the POA have both the POA and healthcare directive in hand as well as keep all involved family members informed of their actions.

 

These documents aren't cheap, but they are worth their weight in gold when you need them. In our case, literally as my parents were being robbed, didn't know it and DH and I recovered all of what those documents cost.

 

2) Make sure you have done the same for yourself. If you aren't ready to share POA, at least make sure that everyone knows who you have designated and that they have your full support if something happens. These documents should be drawn up in the state where you domicile. Unless it is absolutely necessary, don't designate co-POAs. In our situation, my sibling resided outside the country and when the time came to act, my sibling had to resign. Some financial institutions would not recognize his resignation creating more complications we didn't need.

 

Oh, and don't keep these documents in a safe deposit box. Instead keep them in a fireproof, waterproof box and make sure the principals know where they are. Ask me how I know that one.

 

3) Have a list of their doctors and medications handy. This will help if their health deteriorates or for any reason they need some assistance.

 

4) Have a list of several people in their area who you can contact in an emergency. There may be situations when they need assistance before you can get there. Hopefully at least one or two of these people are the type that can be called any hour of day or night.

 

5) Make sure they have a current list of all their financial accounts, phone contacts, key contacts and any online information for all accounts, email, social media and financial. Make sure you know where they keep that list.

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Like Jack, I too have some experience in dealing with this. If possible, it is best to get the documents for aging parents before they need to be used as it can be very difficult if they begin to show symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer disease before they have been executed. And keep that in mind for your children as well. We were fortunate in that my dad thought to have that done before he passed because we had to place my mother into long term care soon after due to senior dementia. Since she was reluctant to move there, it was critical that we already had the legal documents that we needed. In similar situations you may have to get a court order to give you the power to do what is best for an aging parent.

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Kirk,

 

Definitely agreed on making sure that the documents are done before any kind of dementia sets in. We were concerned about my mother's condition when we arranged for the legal work to be done. There was no diagnosis, but we knew something was up. She was definitely still competent, but a few months later I would not have been confident saying that.

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Good list and advice. I have some similar experience. My only comment is that a safety deposit box is fine, as long as the person with POA has a key and access to it.

When we prepared these documents our attorney specifically recommended against a safety deposit box. He said it is a real hassle when you can't find the key. He recommended a good fire proof box, unlocked in your house with all important people knowing where it is. All, needles to say, have copies elsewhere.

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I discovered the hard way that you shouldn't leave the original copies of all these important papers with your aging parents. Several years ago mom got enthusiastic and decided to sort out all the different bits and even sections of the trust and will and re-file them in places that to her made sense. We never found all the bits of the trust, to recover we did a revision which allowed us to get new originals which are now locked safely away and make a set of copies for mom to have with her.

 

We might have been able to slip by using copies if nothing was challenged but I expect troubles from a sibling and I need to be 100% court ready. Mom is getting a bit more iffy in the competence department today and making any further changes would again open up the estate to court challenges so not getting into that situation again is even more important.

 

 

Earl, The unlocked fireproof box is a bad idea as it isn't very fireproof or waterproof when unlocked. Even locked with the key in the lock is iffy in a fire situation. It is much better to keep it locked so it functions as intended and then keep the key handy by tying it to the handle with a length of cord.

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Earl, The unlocked fireproof box is a bad idea as it isn't very fireproof or waterproof when unlocked. Even locked with the key in the lock is iffy in a fire situation. It is much better to keep it locked so it functions as intended and then keep the key handy by tying it to the handle with a length of cord.

Even better is the safety deposit box. You get multiple keys. I've never had an issue with "finding" one. For one thing you can put it in your fireproof box. :)

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We kept our my mothers papers in a safe deposit box where she lived in California. When she passed the banker, who we knew for years, called and said to get over and empty the box immediately. Found out in California when one person on the box passes the state can order the box sealed to be opened in the presence of a state representative to make sure you don't have millions hidden that they can tax. They would have been sorely disappointed with us!

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Be careful what you may also be carrying in your rig or car. If you are in an accident and your vehicle needs towed you may be in for a severe case of identy theft. Just watched a news piece about important info gathered from wrecked cars at unsupervised lots. We try and keep all identifying paperwork at our daughters in the huge safe they have. If I need something she can overnight it to us.

Our POAs are written so that we and our children are not co designators but rather whom ever is present with their document can act. The 9 page document is also our explicit medical directive so there's no question about what is to be done when.

Getting ready to update again soon

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We kept our my mothers papers in a safe deposit box where she lived in California. When she passed the banker, who we knew for years, called and said to get over and empty the box immediately. Found out in California when one person on the box passes the state can order the box sealed to be opened in the presence of a state representative to make sure you don't have millions hidden that they can tax. They would have been sorely disappointed with us!

That must be why I've never used a safe deposit box! I worked in banks in California in the late 60's early 70's and remember that exact advice from someone. For a time I worked at the help desk/counter where folks came to visit their deposit boxes. I think the advice came about when someone came into get things out of the box and wasn't allowed because the other signer had passed. Must have made an impression on me!

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Even better is the safety deposit box. You get multiple keys. I've never had an issue with "finding" one. For one thing you can put it in your fireproof box.

It is also wise to have more than one original copy of such documents. In my case, my sister and I shared a full power of attorney, as well as a number of other responsibilities. But my father was a very wise man as he had 4 original, signed copies of each document prepared, two copies for each of us. That way we each had a copy to keep at hand and another to keep in a safety deposit box for backup. Those fire boxes are none of them truly fire proof, but each has a temperature/time that they will withstand. Even if the documents inside do not catch fire, they may be made so brittle that they disintegrate an are unusable if exposed to a major fire. The only completely secure place for them is a bank vault. Laws on bank vaults do very from state to state so it is wise to know what they are. Since my sister and I live in different states, we had different state laws as well.

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Our concerns with the documents, similar to referenced in OP, presented by our lawyer to us were that what we wished in them could be contested by a.n.other family member and cause immense upset when we pass or become incompetent, with potentially her losing her family homestead her dad built that she wants to raise her family in.

 

Consequently because of our comfort level on protecting ourselves whilst alive, and with back up documentation, trust etc legally prepped in regards to her future spouse/s etc, we have been advised to put our youngest daughter on title with us - we are not lawyers but this was suggested as a more concrete way of ensuring she would get most or all as we wished with likely less tax consequences and protect her for the future. I no none of us can reach from the grave but I agree it is imperative that preparations are put in place to carry out your wishes and to protect the interest of those loved ones that may be left behind. The less that can be argued over the better for everyone.

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On a non-legal note, but still important because if you wait too long, then it will suddenly become impossible....

 

When dad got to be about 80 y/o I suggested to him that he write down all those things he knew that none of us knew. He said, I can't do that. Just ask me questions and I'll answer them. I told him that I have no idea what he knows the answer to, I couldn't begin to guess the questions to ask. Just reminisce about his life and if he doubts that everyone knows about that topic, event, relationship, etc., just write it down. After 3 months or so he sent me a Red Chief tablet, every page filled, front and back. I entered all that into a word processor program and formatted it into 20 or 30 type written pages.

 

I printed it on wide green-bar paper so it would have a big margin and sent him a copy to edit and make notes on. In another 3 months I got that back, with some notes on the first couple of pages and then he ran out of room and began writing on the back and all the rest of the back of the pages were filled. It grew to 80 type written pages with that.

 

The document would only be of interest to family members, but included descriptions of events during his life, family relationships, names, dates, illnesses, births, deaths, how to fix the brakes on a Model-T, the dog they had in California, how they moved to Oregon from Missouri on a train, etc. It really became a cherished document by younger family members who were curious about stuff.

 

That document was so well received, I decided to do my part and am continuing a second book in the same vein. I'm only up to 50 pages or so, but I keep adding things as I think of them.

 

I certainly urge you to encourage your available ancestors to do something similar.

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