If your client or loved one has a crisis and ends up in the hospital, who pays the bills? If their spouse is home but isn’t the “bill payer” in the family, are they doubly stressed about what they have to handle?
Care is There can help!
We Can Do it For You
At Care is There, we offer Daily Money Management services – we can pay your loved ones bills, file and monitor long term care insurance claims, handle bookkeeping, gather information for tax preparers, etc. Contact us to learn more.
We Can Teach You to Do It
If you would like to do it yourself, we can teach you to do it! We’re currently working on an online course on the subject (see our library of courses at this link) but in the meantime, consider planning in advance.
Advance Planning is Required
If your loved one goes into the hospital suddenly, it will be very difficult for you to get the access you need to pay their bills. Therefore, take action now with the preparatory steps listed below.
Get Legal Access
To access your loved one’s funds, you will need them to grant you legal authority to do so – usually by naming you as an agent under general power of attorney. If you don’t already have this authority, you and your loved one should speak to an attorney – ideally one who is educated in elder law – to discuss the implications and execute the documents.
Legal advice is not absolutely required, but naming a financial agent does create risk, so I recommend you speak with a professional to educate you on all aspects of the decision.
If your loved one already has a cognitive impairment, it may be more difficult to obtain your loved one’s legal consent to make you their agent. Contact your elder law attorney to discuss this as well.
Consider Other Interested Parties
When you take steps to access your loved one’s funds, alarms may go off, and rightfully so. The other people who care about your loved one will want to be sure that you have your loved one’s best interests at heart. Consider how your siblings may react. Expect your loved one’s financial advisor, insurance agent, and bankers to be skeptical and to insist on speaking directly with your loved one to confirm that they are giving access voluntarily.
Get Contractual Access
Even after you have been named agent under power of attorney, service providers may hesitate or refuse to give you the financial access you will need. Therefore, you may need to contact each service provider and determine their requirements. Most will have forms that your loved one will need to sign, and which you can return on their behalf. Some will want to speak directly with your loved one to get their permission. Some providers will give you a special personal identification number (PIN) to use when contacting the service provider.
For accessing bank accounts, contact your loved one’s banker for recommendations about how their bank account should be structured to accommodate your assistance. In addition to considering convenience, ask about how the bank account structure affects your loved one’s estate plan. Also ask about online access to the account. Many older people have not set up online access, and most banks do not routinely allow for multiple online banking profiles for personal bank accounts.
Get Practical Access
Even if you have legal and contractual permission, you may not have practical access to everything you need to pay your loved one’s bills while they are in the hospital. Consider these issues:
- If you sign into an account for your loved one, does the service provider validate the access by sending an access code to a phone number or email address? Do you have access to those destinations to retrieve the code?
- If your loved one receives bills on line, do you have access to the email account, etc. that receives the bills?
- If your loved one receives bills via postal mail, do you have access to their mail box?
- If your loved one’s checking account is funded by another source (investment account, etc.), do you have legal, contractual, and/or practical access to the funding account?
I recommend that you do a “dry run” before a crisis occurs – to identify any blocks so you can address them.
Interested in this topic? Contact us to be notified when we publish our online course.
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