Recently, I was asked to serve as agent under Power of Attorney for husband and wife clients. We’ll call them Harry and Wilma. Both are in their 80’s and just moved to a nursing facility. As their legal representative, I will be doing the types of things that, as an elder care attorney, I so often advise our clients’ family members who serve in that role. So I thought I would share with you the process that I am working through and the steps I now am, and will in the coming months, take to insure that Harry and Wilma are well cared for.
First, let me give you a bit of background. Harry and Wilma live in a modest home which they told me they have owned for 50 years. They have no children or family that they are close with. Both are physically unable to navigate the stairs in their home or even leave their home without assistance. But, my job is made easier because the reason they need nursing home care is because of their physical ailments, not mental ones. Although at times their memory is a bit faulty they both were able to answer my questions and provide me with the information and documents I need to help them.
The first step was to have them both execute very specific powers of attorney that will allow me to conduct the transactions I will need to transition them to a nursing facility, pay their bills, sell their home and eventually ,if they outlive their funds, apply for Medicaid benefits on their behalf. That document will be absolutely critical to my ability to help them.
When I visited their home, it was immediately clear why they could no longer remain there. Harry was confined to a room downstairs that was converted to a bedroom. Wilma still slept upstairs but I couldn’t imagine how she was able to make it up the stairs. The home was in disarray. Papers, clothing and other items were stacked or lying about everywhere. It was obvious that the upkeep of a home was no longer within their capabilities. And they knew it too. The nursing facility was coming the next day to move them.
While visiting them in their home I wanted to take the opportunity to gather as much information about them as I could. I asked Harry if he has a safe deposit box and if so what he keeps there. He told me he and Wilma keep a box at the bank down the street from them. That is where they keep their will and deed to their home. It’s also possible there are other papers in the box that we’ll need so I was hoping he would remember where, in his home, he keeps the key to the box. Luckily, he knew exactly where and directed me to it.
I asked about other assets such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and insurance policies. He and Wilma both told me that they had bank accounts at three different banks totaling approximately $100,000 and that’s it. They could only show me a single statement for one of the accounts, claiming that they discard the statements rather than save them.
I looked around and saw stacks of old papers, some going back 30 years or more. There was only so much ground I could cover with them in a single visit. I knew I would need to come back to the home another day so I focused my inquiries on their means of record keeping, where in the home. At the conclusion of our meeting they gave me a key to their home.
Harry and Wilma settled in well in the facility a few days after I met with them. Next week I’ll tell you about my second visit to their home, what I was looking for and what I found.