Financial decisions when mom has dementia
Q. I’m going to take care of my mother who is starting to get dementia. We both own houses but I think it’s silly to keep two. She doesn’t want to sell hers, but I don’t want to sell mine either. What can I do to get her to change her mind?
A. We’re sorry to hear about your mom’s condition, and you’re smart to try to take care of the money stuff while she’s able to participate in the conversation.
Dementia can progress at different rates, but one of the first things that is often compromised is financial acumen or decision making, said Jody D’Agostini, a certified financial planner with AXA Advisors/The Falcon Financial Group in Morristown.
She said it would be wise to make sure that your mother’s estate planning is in place in short order.
“You should sit down with her and learn about her financial picture: her assets and liabilities and if she has any long-term care coverage,” D’Agostini said. “Also, I would obtain contact information about who her advisors are — everyone from her physicians to her accountant, financial professional, etc.”
She said it’s also a good time to look at titling of her assets, and see if any changes could be made to minimize estate taxes.
Before getting to your home question, be sure your mom has a will, which will discuss the disposition of her assets and who will be appointed executor of her estate when she eventually passes, she said.
D’Agostini said she will also need a Durable Healthcare Power of Attorney or Medical Power of Attorney, which will state who will step in and help with medical decision making should your mom become incapacitated. Under the new privacy laws (HIPPA), only a spouse would be allowed to make these decisions without this document, she said.
It’s also important to obtain a Durable General Power of Attorney for legal and financial matters, so someone would be designated to handle legal and financial decisions on your mother’s behalf.
Finally, D’Agostini said, you might also consider a Living Will, which says that a person does not want any life sustaining treatment if there is no hope of recovery.
On the homes: D’Agostini said your mother knows her home, and routine is important, but she recommends looking at which living arrangement that best suits the “new normal,” such as which has bedrooms equipped with handicap bathrooms or are able to be altered for such.
It’s also important to look at the finances and see which home is more affordable.
“There may be a need to fund a caregiver in the future. This should be considered,” D’Agostini said. “If she doesn’t have long-term care insurance in place, perhaps trusts could be set up to preserve some of the estate, and provide for her anticipated needs.”
While your mom is able, consider visiting a financial advisor or an estate planning attorney together. This person, as an objective third party, may be able to help you and your momcome to an agreement.
Good luck with this difficult time.
Karin Price Mueller writes the Bamboozled column for The Star-Ledger and she’s the founder of NJMoneyHelp.com. Click here to sign up for the NJMoneyHelp.com weekly e-newsletter. Like NJMoneyHelp.com on Facebook and follow it on Twitter.