Suppose your Aunt Gertrude can use help with around the house. She isn’t as spry as she used to be. She likes living in her own house, but she needs some help. Physically. She needs help at the grocery store. Some days, her rheumatism is so bad that she doesn’t want to go. She could use a helping hand.

So her niece Milly offers to lend a hand. “Isn’t it nice of Milly to give up her Saturday afternoon to help poor, sweet Aunt Gertrude?” The neighbors all think it’s so sweet.

And it probably is. Most of us love helping our family members. We wouldn’t think of taking advantage of them. But far too often, things turn sour. Like the Watertown, New York man who was helping a woman in her 90’s. He helped himself to over two hundred thousand dollars. Or the Naples Florida man who ran up thousands of dollars on his 78 year old mother’s credit cards. Both of these are recent stories. Do a word search on any internet browser with “Power of attorney” and stealing money. You will find the ‘crisis du jour’ for some senior citizen.

So when should you not suggest Aunt Gertrude appoint an attorney-in-fact through a power of attorney document?

  • – When all she needs is physical help.
  • – When she still has the power of reason to make her own decisions.
  • – And, especially when she is frail physically, but alert mentally.

“But she looks so helpless.” or “It would be great for her to not have to worry about her bills.” I have had 90 year olds who not only still pay their own bills, they still help manage their investments.

The problem of appointing an attorney in fact for a feeble senior citizen is that they are easily bullied. Today’s tip is to be sure that the attorney in fact in your aunt Gertrude’s life is, indeed, watching out for Aunt Gertrude’s best interests. And not his or her own.