Very regularly, I get calls from the children of elderly parents who says something like: “I need to help my mom pay her bills, but the bank won’t give me access to her account,” or “I’m trying to help my dad apply for Medicaid so he can get assisted living help, but the government won’t let me… they say I need a power of attorney.” My response is: “Sure, I can help with that, but I’ll have to meet with your dad. How is he doing? Does he have the cognitive ability to know or understand that he’d be appointing you to help him?”
In almost every case, the response is something like this: “Well, that’s a tough question; it really depends on when you catch him, whether he’s having a good day or not.” Or they say: “Well, my mom knows who I am, and she can remember every day of her childhood, but her short-term memory is not very good.” As you might imagine, this presents a big problem. You see, I can’t ethically help someone create a legal document if I have doubts about their mental capacity to understand what they’re doing.
In these circumstances, the only way for a child to get the legal authority necessary to help mom or dad is to initiate a guardianship case. Guardianship involves a host of characters: private attorneys, a court appointed attorney, a court appointed temporary guardian or conservator, a geriatric care manager, a judge, and various other potential third parties. In short - GUARDIANSHIP IS VERY EXPENSIVE AND EMOTIONALLY DRAINING! I’ve seen it destroy families.
BUT if action is taken promptly, while mom or dad understands they’re giving their child the authority to help them, Guardianship can usually be avoided. If I can help your family take steps to avoid the expensive and emotionally heavy guardianship process, please contact me at (813) 244-7758 or Ross@RossSpanoLaw.com.