Sunday, August 19, 2007

Warning : Big Problems Ahead for Elders and Their Families

Sunday, August 19, 2007 By Jan Warner and Jan Collins

Question: My parents have been secretive about their finances ever since I can remember. As they aged (they are now in their late 70s), I would ask about powers of attorney because of my concern about handling matters for them if they became unable to do so. They would tell my husband and me (I am an only child) that everything was under control and, could they not handle their affairs, I would find everything in order.

My father has suffered a debilitating stroke from which he will not recover, and my mother broke her hip. I finally got a key to their home from her purse, and after hours of searching, my husband and I found their "everything is under control" package: a notebook containing a couple hundred pages of trust documents and instructions, some signature pages having not been signed or witnessed; and a number of deferred annuity statements and bank statements. No powers of attorney or wills. I called the banks and annuity companies, all of which refused to talk to me. I called the "trust network" responsible for this mess, and they hung up on me.

I have now been to a lawyer who tells me that I will basically have to sue my parents to gain court-appointed conservatorship and guardianship over both of them. In this way, he says, we can get to the bottom of this awful mess. I blame myself for not being more aggressive with my folks. They trusted the word of strangers who took advantage of them as opposed to trusting their only child. I hope you will print this so your readers will understand that seniors are indeed targets for abuse.

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