Handling the emotional toll of discovering that your mother is too sick to care for herself can be difficult. Even worse, you may have to handle her assets during her sickness at the same time that you are attempting to handle the high level of emotions that are common during a close relative's illness. Many financial institutions will not allow you to know the balances of certain assets or complete transactions on your mother's behalf, unless you have a certain legal status in relationship to your mother or her assets.
Take an inventory of your mother's assets. Look through her bills and financial statements to discern the type and amount of assets that she has, along with her liabilities. Total the amount of her assets, including checking and savings account balances, real property and valuable personal property.
Calculate her monthly income. Include amounts from Social Security, disability insurance, retirement earnings and pension plans. Her income can help pay for some of the expenses that are associated with her care. Use a portion of her income to pay for long-term care insurance, if possible.
Talk to an elder law or family law attorney about preparing documents to acquire a durable power of attorney over your mother. This legal document gives you the right to act on your mother's behalf when making financial transactions. A general power of attorney can give you the legal right to handle some financial transactions, but you may need to have a special power of attorney when dealing with specific transactions such as when selling a property. Speak to your mother's financial institutions to determine the type of legal status that you will need in order to act on her behalf. You may need to sign the legal documents in front of a notary public and you may need two witnesses.
Talk to other close relatives about your mother's financial affairs to avoid tensions in the family. Other relatives can help you decide if there are certain assets that should not be liquidated, if possible. If your mother is healthy enough, discuss options with her. You may need to liquidate assets in order for your mother not to exceed the maximum asset allowance of $2,000 to qualify for Medicaid.
Place your mother's assets in a trust to protect them. The benefit of a trust is that you can return the assets to your mother if she recovers and you can protect the assets from other relatives. Make sure that your mother's will is up-to-date in case she does not recover.
- The Medicaid program may look back up to three years for assets that were disposed of to family members or other sources.
Samantha Kemp is a lawyer for a general practice firm. She has been writing professionally since 2009. Her articles focus on legal issues, personal finance, business and education. Kemp acquired her JD from the University of Arkansas School of Law. She also has degrees in economics and business and teaching.