How can I help my mother manage her finances?
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My mother, who is 89, is sadly showing early signs of dementia. She is quite wealthy – my father died a few years ago leaving everything to her – and always dealt with her finances by herself until just recently. But she seems frightened of the responsibility now and is refusing to meet with her financial adviser. What can I do to help?
Douglas Bridges of Smith & Pinching responds:
I’m sorry to hear that your mother is unwell and struggling to cope with her finances. First, can I ask if she has a Lasting Power of Attorney in place for when you feel she no longer has the capacity to act for herself? If not, I recommend that you get this set up as soon as possible, while she is still able to make her own decisions. You can reassure her that she is not devolving responsibility at this point but that it could be invoked if she were to become unwell and unable to deal with her bills, etc.
If you need to take over control at some stage without a power of attorney, you must apply to the Court of Protection to act on her behalf, which can take some time.
Her reluctance to meet with her financial adviser might be addressed by yourself or another family member attending the meeting with her. The adviser should certainly welcome this: firms usually have safeguarding procedures in place to protect vulnerable clients. Advisers would be on the alert, for example, for any decisions that are out of character and might indicate a deterioration of your mother’s capacity.
I suggest that you talk frankly with your mother to reassure her that you are not prying into her finances but want to ensure that if you do need, at some stage, to invoke the Power of Attorney, you can understand her financial affairs and continue to manage them as she would herself. It’s important that you do not try to impose your own financial behaviour on her so she can be confident that, if you do need to take control, you will bear her usual attitudes and wishes in mind. You might suggest she writes an expression of wishes letter that sets out her gift patterns for family and charities, for example, for you to follow if needed.
I suggest you set up her Power of Attorney with a solicitor as soon as possible, while she is relatively well. If she does not already have a will, that should also be a priority. If you don’t already have a solicitor, your financial adviser may be able to recommend someone.
Any opinions expressed in this article do not constitute advice.
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