An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

An acquaintance told me recently that her mother is being taken advantage of by her son. It was a heart-wrenching story for sure. Unfortunately, due to circumstances I can’t elaborate on, I was not able to help her mother with any preventative measures.

Perhaps the saddest part about her situation is that fixing the problem could cost more money and stress than the problem itself. My acquaintance then asked, “So what do people do in these circumstances? It’s not like we could have anticipated this happening.” She’s right. And that is why I feel the need to get on my soapbox again to warn the more than 50% of families in the United States who still don’t have Estate Planning documents. (Click to read reasons why.)

This story and many others could have been avoided or mitigated if some careful planning had been done years before. In other words, a little bit of time spent on preventative measures – in this case, a well-thought out financial power of attorney – might have prevented the costly “cure” the mother is facing now.

During this month of Alzheimer’s Awareness, I hope some light can be shed on things we can do now to avoid bigger problems in the future if or when Alzheimer’s or dementia creep into the family. Channel 5 reported last night (Nov. 11, 2017) that Alzheimers is the 4th leading cause of death in Arizona and that more than  130,000 people in Arizona are stricken with the disease.

Here is a short list of things to think about now (while everyone is in good health):
  • Who should I designate as my Agent (or “Attorney-In-Fact”) on my power of attorney if I begin to have trouble handling my finances?
  • Should I designate more than one person as my Agent, so they can support each other (or keep an eye on each other)?
  • When will my Agent have power to serve – now or at my incapacity?
For those that have a revocable living trust, here are some other things to consider:
  • Who have I designated as my successor trustees?
  • Should I have co-Trustees, so they can support each other (or keep an eye on each other)?
  • Should I require that a Successor Trustee post a bond when they assume the role of Trustee?
  • Should I designate a Trust Protector?

These are just some of the questions that would be useful to go through with an attorney. Of course I would love to be that attorney that helps your family put together a plan now instead of a rescue later.