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Sad_Daughter

Financial incompetence?

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I am my 91 yr old father's only child and health care proxy.  My Mom passed in March and he is alone.  He has a PhD, is well spoken, comes across as charming, quite good health, lives in NY state in an independent living with a life care contract.  He is paying rent, health club, many large dept store bills (thousands of dollars) for a 56 yr old outside the facility.  This relationship goes back about five years.  

 

I have seen somewhat graphic but mostly "lovey dovey" texts from her on his phone.  He told me she has a conviction for dealing Oxycontin and did three months jail time. 

 

All the attorneys I have dealt with tell me as long as he is judged competent to make his own decisions, there is nothing I can do.  I am considering hiring a private detective to find out if she is doing this to other people but I'm not sure that would convince him; trying to get other relatives to join me in sitting down with him and convincing him to behave differently (?hard at his age) and/or having him declared incompetent.  How hard is that to do? 

 

Can you think of ANY other options? I am concerned about his continuing ability to pay his bills although for the MOMENT he is OK.  Thanks in advance for your thoughts and advice.

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You have been advised correctly.  As long as your father is competent, he gets to spend (or throw away) his money as he sees fit.  You cannot "have him declared" incompetent.  That would require a court order based on a diagnosis from one or more mental health professionals, and there's nothing in your message to suggest such a diagnosis is forthcoming.  If he continues to handle his money irresponsibly past the point when he can no longer pay his bills, then you might have something to work with.  Until then, you're stuck with your own powers of persuasion, however effective they may be.

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Hi Sad_Daughter,

 

I'm sorry to hear about your situation. It must be difficult to watch your father spend his money in such a seemingly irresponsible way... Unfortunately, since you yourself describe your father as well-spoken and mentally competent, there is nothing much you can do at this point. The court simply will not give you control of his finances if he is mentally competent.

 

You're certainly free to try a private detective or staging an "intervention" of sorts, but you might want to consider if he'll be receptive to these efforts. They might further alienate you from your father. In the meantime, please feel free to check out FindLaw's section on elder law for more general information. Good luck!

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Thank you for your comments.  While he has the money, he is several months behind at the independent living, and I have had to pay the cell phone bill several times, so he is not really on top of things.  I am concerned about him hanging around drug dealers as he is somewhat frail, I guess nothing I can do about that.  The law is not helping protect the elderly in this case. 

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"The law is not helping protect the elderly in this case."

 

Not sure what to make of this.  The law exists to protect your father's right to dispose of his wealth as he chooses, as long as he is mentally competent.  It appears to me the law is doing exactly what it was designed to do.  When (if?) he becomes incompetent, the law provides a means for you to intervene and manage his affairs for him, in his best interests.

 

If you have reason to believe your father is involved with drug dealers, you should notify the appropriate law enforcement officials.

 

You are not obligated to pay any of your father's bills.  In fact, doing so could serve to obscure the fact that he may not be as competent as others believe.  Note that, paradoxically, his getting you to pay his bills for him could be construed as a very competent (albeit sly) way to manage his finances.

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If he's behind in paying for his living facility and paying expenses for another person, that to me clearly says he is unable to provide for his own needs (food/shelter).  I would work on having him put on an involuntary hold and 72 mental evaluation.   Being well spoken does not necessarily mean he is capable of making his own decisions for his own well being.    That is for a mental health professional to talk to him and decide whether he thinks his finances should be handled by someone else.     Not having paid his own rent and paying expenses/rent for another individual should be more than enough to alleviate him of these troubles. 

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I am considering . . . having him declared incompetent.  How hard is that to do?

 

Based on your description of your father, this would be virtually impossible.  There are big differences between:  (1) an elderly person being incompetent; (2) an elderly person making objectively bad financial decisions; and (3) an elderly person spending his money in a way that his his children don't approve of.  It's his money, and he's entitled to spend it as he sees fit -- whether you like it or not and even if it is an objectively bad idea for him to do so.

 

 

 

I am concerned about his continuing ability to pay his bills although for the MOMENT he is OK.

 

You're free to sit down with him and review his finances (if he's willing to give you access) and discuss your concerns.  However, as long as he's competent, these are his decisions to make.

 

 

 

The law is not helping protect the elderly in this case. 

 

If a mentally-competent 25 year old man fails to pay his rent and other bills and, instead, uses his money to pay the bills for a woman who has a conviction for dealing drugs, what would you say about him?  The only different fact in your situation is that the man is 91, not 25.  Now may I suggest you reconsider your comment?

 

 

 

If he's behind in paying for his living facility and paying expenses for another person, that to me clearly says he is unable to provide for his own needs (food/shelter).  I would work on having him put on an involuntary hold and 72 mental evaluation.   Being well spoken does not necessarily mean he is capable of making his own decisions for his own well being.    That is for a mental health professional to talk to him and decide whether he thinks his finances should be handled by someone else.     Not having paid his own rent and paying expenses/rent for another individual should be more than enough to alleviate him of these troubles. 

 

This is nonsense.  Being behind on one's bills doesn't make one mentally incompetent and certainly doesn't justify "an involuntary hold and 72 [hour] mental evaluation."  That would be a gross intrusion on this man's rights based entirely on his age.

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