How Do I Tell If A Parent is Competent?

Old-man-1-1236821“You may have an aging parent with a few memory problems. Your parent may seem to be slipping in a few areas of life but seems OK with everything else.”

It can be hard to tell if your dad is still in a proper frame of mind. He may be used to being in charge. He’s stubborn and never wants help with anything. However, you may see that he’s making some risky choices with money, that are out of character. These changes come slowly but steadily.

Other examples can be if he forgets to pay a bill…. or he forgot that he spoke to you yesterday. You recognize all this and ask him to get some help. He refuses to even talk about it.

Is there anything you can do? No one would ever say, at this time, that he’s legally incompetent to make decisions, because he presents himself well. That’s the issue discussed in Forbes’ recent article, “Aging Parents At The In-Between Stage: Partially Competent and Partially Not.”

Here are some strategies to consider to help you to address this situation:

First, both the senior parent and the adult child must be in agreement that something has to change, and fast. Next, examine the parent’s legal documents, specifically the Durable Power of Attorney. In some cases, the daughter is appointed as the agent, and her power is unrestricted. She has legal authority to take over management of the father’s accounts. Nevertheless, the daughter may not have discussed this with her father and, likely, she has not exercised any authority as agent. The daughter should review the Durable Power of Attorney with any siblings. She should then access her father’s accounts, so she’d know if her father is giving away money or perhaps caught up in an elder fraud. If there’s a significant problem, she needs to approach her father.

The father might refuse any help in managing his finances. However, gentle and respectful persistence can win the day. The Durable Power of Attorney can be used to move most of his assets out of accounts where he had access. He still could give away money, but she then could restrict what he had available.

This shows the importance of doing estate planning and having at least one responsible person, the daughter, to act as the agent with power of attorney.

A partially incompetent elder who presents well, may not have any sound financial judgment remaining. The affected elder shouldn’t be permitted to endanger finances, when you can help protect him and his assets. The protection is usually a signed Durable Power of Attorney.

Reference: Forbes (December 3, 2018) “Aging Parents At The In-Between Stage: Partially Competent and Partially Not”