Managing our own money is challenging enough let alone trying to untangle the woven webs of our loved ones’ finances.
Does your loved one put off making decisions?
Does your loved one write notes on little pieces of paper?
Are you overwhelmed by all the details involved in your loved one’s finances?
If your answer is, “Yes,” you’re not alone.
Making sense of my father’s finances took over a year.
Each bit of information required hours and even weeks to track down.
The Mystery Telephone Number
During his later years, and with shaky handwriting, my father recorded a telephone number on an earmarked edge of paper. I called the number only to be surprised to learn he had retained a law firm. This attorney assigned to his case was no longer with the firm. In order to get any more information I needed a Power of Attorney (POA). This started a week-long journey of finding an attorney, then having him draft a POA for my father’s approval, then faxing the document to this other attorney’s office to learn why my father retained their firm. The reason is a topic on financial elder abuse.
U.S. Savings Bonds – 100-plus Serial Numbers
My husband, David, found a little green metal box filled with index cards and serial numbers of U.S. Savings Bonds. David entered over a hundred numbers into a spreadsheet on the computer before submitting them online to Savings Bond Wizard. His effort was largely for naught, because we learned that my father had already done something with them. But we had to go through this exercise because we were not sure!
Fiduciary responsibility caused the greatest frustration.
Caring for my father was easy compared to his estate-related matters.
It’s been said that the right person will rise up to the challenge. Whereas, my brother would have tossed everything in our father’s house (where he also lived) and my sister would have fought back tears, I tried to be more patient and detail oriented. Despite this, I often wondered: Is it okay to hate my father for not taking care of his affairs while he was more able to?
We later found
- stock certificates in a non-descript envelope in one of the drawers of two steel file cabinets,
- cash hidden under the Persian rug under my father’s desk, and
- over $100,000 in U.S. Savings Bonds ($25,000 face value and 20-30 years old) between two old books on one of the built-in dark-oak living room bookshelves.
If my brother tossed everything, we would likely have had to depend on Medicaid for the latter years of our father’s care.
Hired a CPA and Attorney for Advice
Instead, since my father had some assets, I hired a CPA to manage my father’s accounts and to advise me; especially, given the dissension among us siblings. I also retained a California attorney–the fifth of six attorneys I dealt with regarding my father’s affairs!
It wasn’t easy and managing disorganized finances is not fun. Since my husband and I took my fiduciary responsibility very seriously–dotting all i’s and crossing all the t’s–we spent hours upon hours reviewing accounting, legal, and tax paperwork. We both soon dreaded it.
Charging a modest fee for our time, it still was not a worthy task to embrace on evenings, weekends, and even days when court dates loomed. Much of our non-work time was devoted to my father’s non-direct care affairs. And frankly, we were hating it!
The only joy came when, as a long-time investor, I invested his assets. During the nineties with the rise in the market, his estate value doubled,. This was of some comfort considering the pain I endured with the details.*
In a future article, I will write about How I Learned to Manage Finances.
For more information read the Money, Money, Money chapter in “Where’s my shoes?” My Father’s Walk through Alzheimer’s.
I look forward to learning about your experiences. Please comment below.
Brenda Avadian, MA
P.S. For FUN I waited to release this blog on 1.11.11 at 11:11am(PT)!
* My father’s attorney and CPA did advise that a fiduciary for an eighty-seven year-old should invest conservatively and expect no more than five-percent interest at the time. Despite this sound advice, as a long-time investor–starting in commodities–I felt comfortable with the risk and was so certain of my choices that I accepted the responsibility. I would not repeat this today. Although I continue to invest and am exploring proven ways to help caregivers gain added monthly income to help offset the stress of a reduced income, the investing world has changed markedly in the last decade. After three decades of experience, these days, I have found that all the additional investment vehicles such as derivatives (e.g., options, futures, ETFs), has created highly speculative markets far removed from sound investing in fundamentals. I’m still trying, though!