There are a few things to consider when thinking about protecting your parent’s assets. Long term care costs, ill-intentioned family members, scams, debt, and outdated wills or trusts. The first thing you should do is have a conversation with your parents about this. It’s touchy and can be a difficult subject to bring up, but it’s important. What you talk about and when you talk about it could be vital in the handling of their estate upon their passing. Educate yourself on common scams, elder financial abuse, and Medicaid. It would also be a good idea to try to have an open conversation between your parents, yourself, and your siblings, so if something does happen to go awry, you at least are aware of what their intentions were and can recognize any signs of financial abuse, by predator scams or family members.
We talked about Medicaid’s 5-year look-back. So, we know about ways to protect assets from being depleted until there is almost nothing left. The key to protection from Medicaid is early planning. No matter how uncomfortable the conversation is, the earlier you have it, the better chance you have at protecting your parents’ assets from being taken by Medicaid. Medicaid will NOT take your parents’ house, if it’s over modest value, in any case, the house should be put into a trust. You can protect almost everything by putting their assets in a clearly and carefully worded Medicaid Trust also known as an irrevocable trust as long as this is done at least FIVE years prior. So. Timing is of the essence.
What can you do if you suspect a sibling or family member is taking advantage of your parents? Have that open conversation I mentioned earlier. Make sure everyone understands the financial situation and the importance of monitoring and protecting your parents’ resources and assets for future care. After that if you still feel they are victims of Elder Financial Abuse or Exploitation or undue influence (when people use their role and power to exploit the trust, dependency, and fear of others), try to gather evidence and report it to your local Adult Protective Services office.
One other major thing to be on the look-out for are predator scams. These people purposefully seek out older adults with the intent to financially exploit them. Telemarketing fraud and internet fraud are the most common. There are all types of scams though, seems like these people just never quit. Lottery/Sweepstakes scams, Investment scams, even one called “Grandparent scam”, which is when a criminal will pose as a relative – usually a grandchild, claiming to be in some sort of trouble and needs money to be sent to them asap. Best thing you can do for your parent is to do your research on these, so you recognize them.
There are proactive steps you can take that will help avoid some of these things. Talk to your parents about scams and imposters, explain to them what is going on and why, so they understand. Put them on the national do not call registry and try to help them manage their email. Look for evidence of any of these things. Pride can be powerful, and some people would rather take the loss than admit they fell for something. You can report or even just ask for help with your local Adult Protective Services office or your local AARP office.
Most importantly, get a financial plan together ASAP. Make sure there is a CLEAR understanding of who in your family is legally able to sign for them, obtain a Durable POA and a Medical POA. You can protect your parents with smart asset management. To get started with that, please contact us, we would love to be of assistance in helping you prepare for your parents’ future and protecting their assets.