Real-Life Solutions to Clients’ Problems…
Daily Money Management #1
“I am deluged with paper. It keeps piling up on my table.” Richard, age 84, called for help with filing because an out-of-state daughter was coming to town. The dining room table, kitchen counters, and stovetop were covered with bills, financial statements, and receipts. We found that his mortgage had not been paid so the chaos was costing him huge stress and late fees.
Richard told me he had fallen and injured his head a couple of years before we met. Although his office needed work, he had me focus on the dining room and kitchen to prepare for his daughter’s visit. In 2 work sessions, after sorting, purging, and shredding papers, these rooms were free of paper clutter with the set up of an “active files” box, an “in” box, and a “to file” box.
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Daily Money Management #2
"I am overwhelmed. I am falling apart." After her husband’s death, Bessie, age 82, was “frozen” and couldn’t deal with paying two nursing homes, eight medical providers, and the funeral home; tracking denials of claims by Medicare and the secondary insurance company; and contacting various government agencies regarding death benefits. For Bessie, dealing with government agencies was a nightmare. She didn’t understand their jargon and was so frustrated by the red tape.
After sorting through paperwork to consolidate all the outstanding bills, Bessie gave me written authority to speak to medical providers. I asked that claims be resubmitted to Medicare, kept track of all the conversations, and followed up as needed on Bessie’s behalf. Once her husband’s medical bills and funeral expenses were paid, Bessie felt she could handle her daily finances on her own.
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"I don't have dementia." Esther came into my life when her out-of-state daughter petitioned for guardianship and asked for a Co-Guardian. Esther was a 92-year-old "survivor” and I admired her greatly for her spunk. She outlived 2 husbands, most of her friends, and her money.
Esther lived in a nice facility where her physical needs were met, but since her daughter lived so far away, I visited every two weeks to check on her care and show an interest in her life. Although Esther said, “I don’t have dementia” and “the doctor was mad at me and said I couldn’t go home,” she did have cognitive problems that exhibited mostly in paranoia that staff and other residents were stealing from her. She hid things and would forget where she put them. I inventoried her possessions and reassured her on most visits that everything was accounted for. Esther told her daughter “I am very thankful for Lori. She’s been a big help to me.”
After the facility questioned the “full code” directive Esther gave when she moved in, I initiated end-of-life care discussions with Esther, her daughter, and her physician. We changed the directive to “DNR, DNI” because Esther remembered the intrusive care her sister had at the end of her life and didn't want that type of treatment.
Esther fell and suffered a fracture. She was in a nursing home for several weeks and I visited at least twice a week. When she went to the emergency room for tests I went there to check on her condition. When she returned to her assisted living facility she failed to rebound to her previous state of health. I advocated to have her physicians reduce non-essential medications and pushed to bring in a hospice care agency. Esther received very compassionate hospice care in her last days and died peacefully in her apartment with her daughter by her side.
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Power of Attorney #1
"I pay my own bills." When I met with Elsa, age 89, at a social worker’s request, she was quite adamant that she didn’t need help with daily money management tasks - even though 1) her landlord was having to remind her to pay rent, 2) the social worker couldn’t determine her financial situation and ability to pay for needed home care services, and 3) she was incurring late fees and paying bills by credit card since she kept losing her checkbooks. During our initial conversation, she mentioned several times that she didn’t think she’d paid her taxes and she showed me an IRS notice of underpayment for the prior year.
About a week after my DMM services were turned down, the social worker called again. Elsa had had a change of heart and wanted my help to declutter because her brother and niece were coming to town to meet with her, the social worker and an attorney. I worked with Elsa and, after many hours, piles were sorted and bagfuls of papers were purged in time for the relatives’ visit and appointment with the attorney.
I don’t know whether Elsa did not want to appoint a family member or they did not want to serve in that capacity, but she appointed me attorney-in-fact. With this new responsibility and authority, I was able to dig in and take care of her financial affairs: determined her income sources, inventoried her financial assets, met with her financial advisors, took over bill paying, organized and submitted tax documentation to her CPA, paid her taxes, and kept her apartment free of paper clutter.
Having a handle on Elsa’s financial affairs was a godsend, when a few months after we met, it was determined that she needed to move to an assisted living facility. Her niece was able to make decisions regarding a quick move because we knew exactly what she could afford. Since Elsa knew me well by this point, she was quite comfortable with me taking charge of downsizing her possessions for the move.
Elsa now lives in a pleasant apartment, eats good food in the dining room, gets medication reminders, goes to chapel services, plays cards and bingo, and attends entertainment programs - and doesn't have to worry about paying bills and taxes any more. When I visit to check on her, deliver mail, and make sure she has spending money, she says “I’m grateful for all you do” and "you are one of a kind and I love you."
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Power of Attorney #2 - IN DEPTH - "FROM THE BRINK OF EVICTION"
"I never thought I’d have someone to help me with all this stuff.” Joe, age 83, was in dire straits when we met. He owed more than 5 months rent to his landlord who was beginning to talk eviction. His sister called in a panic because she didn't know how to help him.
- Joe never married, had no children, lived and worked abroad for 30+ years.
- Joe returned to the U.S. to be near extended family.
- Joe owed $11,300 to his landlord and $4,800 to a credit card company.
- Joe had bank accounts in 2 states - value $3,500.
- Joe had an old European savings passbook with a balance of about $84,000 USD.
- Joe had received a European pension - didn’t have any statements.
- According to his sister, Joe is “forgetful.
Joe hired me as a Daily Money Manager and we called his European bank to have the money from the savings account wired to his U.S. bank. The bank would not confirm the balance over the phone and we were told that Joe would “have to come into the bank to withdraw his money!” This phone call was just the beginning of an odyssey of calls, letters, emails, faxes, and visits to banks, pension and insurance companies, Medicare, Social Security, the VA, the IRS, and a European consulate before Joe’s finances were in order.
It was apparent after the first phone call and after finding financial correspondence - most of which was in a foreign language - that “assisting” Joe wasn’t going to work. Joe’s cognitive problems, the language barrier, the 7-hour time difference in Europe, and my lack of legal authorization to speak for him, made this impossible. Joe needed a legally appointed agent to handle his affairs for him. I advised Joe and his family members that Joe needed to meet with an attorney ASAP. Joe appointed me attorney-in-fact and appointed his nephew and sister as the successor attorneys-in-fact.
The following was discovered and/or completed:
- Joe had 3 accounts at the European bank with a combined value of $118,000 USD.
- Joe was being charged $545 per month in interest, late fees and European health insurance.
- Paid outstanding rent and credit card balances totaling $16,100.
- 2 pensions had been suspended for over a year since Joe had not submitted a change of address.
- Pension payments in arrears of $14,100 and $14,600 were wired to his U.S. account.
- Monthly European pension payments of $2,100 USD are now being credited to the U.S. account.
- Joe had to be re-enrolled for Medicare Part A (hospitalization coverage).
- Joe had a $8,300 credit with Social Security; at my request, Social Security issued $8,300 to Joe.
- Joe had not paid U.S. taxes in 10 years; had tax returns prepared, paid taxes & penalties.
When we met, Joe’s confirmed assets were $3,500. Five months later, once money had been transferred from the European bank accounts and CDs and pension payment arrears had been received, his assets totaled $140,000.
With a lot of encouragement, Joe consented to meet with his attorney and has completed a Health Care Directive. He appointed his sister and me co-health care agents. Because Joe’s sister is dealing with health issues, I've handled personal care issues including: accompanying Joe to doctor and dentist visits, shopping for clothes and household items, and hiring a home care agency to take care of laundry, cleaning, and grocery shopping. We also met with a funeral preplanner and he has made decisions regarding a memorial service. I have purchased a cemetery plot and have prepaid a portion of his funeral so his sister won’t have to handle this when he dies.
Since his affairs are in order, Joe is in a much better place than when we met...and his rent gets paid on time!