How can we figure out our parent's financial situation if they are unable to give us information?

3 answers | Last updated: Apr 16, 2012
A fellow caregiver asked...

Now that our parent is in a nursing home and very confused, how do my brother and I find out how many bank accounts she has and where her money and will is located? She can no longer tell us.

Expert Answers

Carolyn Rosenblatt, R.N. and Attorney is the author of author of The Boomer's Guide to Aging Parents. She has over 40 years of combined experience in her two professions. As a nurse, she has extensive experience with geriatrics, chronic illness, pain management, dementias, disability, family dynamics, and death and dying. As a trial attorney, she advocated for for the rights of injured individuals and neglected elders. She is also co-founder of

You are in a situation in trying to find your parent's financial information that may leave you with few choices. If your parent never signed a durable power of attorney (for finances), you must seek legal help to get her under the court's authority through a guardianship (called a conservatorship in some places). If you, or someone you trust is appointed the guardian, you will then have the authority to go through any legal documents available, to speak to your parent's estate planning attorney if there is one, and to go to any bank or financial institution he/she ever used to determine what accounts your parent had. In addition, you will need to go through all your parent's personal belongings looking for any bank statements, account records, and anything that will give you/the guardian a clue as to where to seek information as to money left in any account, or investment. Can you locate a tax return? Is there a stock record? Old checkbooks? Once you find any financial assets, you/the guardian will have to account for them, and use them for your parent's benefit. Financial assets will affect your parent's eligibility for benefits like Medicaid. Be sure to seek the advice of an experienced elder law or estate planning attorney to assist you in your search. Finally, if any bank account has remained inactive for a long time, your state Controller's office may have a way to refund unclaimed funds from inactive accounts. Find the state Controller's website, and search "unclaimed funds" to learn the procedure. Put in your mother's name, and see what turns up. Your state may have a way to save unclaimed funds until they are requested by the owner or owner's representative. or the guardian

Community Answers

Rellim answered...

I thought I would add something to this that I learned the hard way. If you have power of attorney over finances and health, all that power goes away after death. I took care of my Dad for almost 3 years, in that time I took care of all finances, medical decisions, insurnace claims ,etc, after he passed away I was told by some of the comapnies I had dealt with that unless I was executor of his estate they could no longer discuss his finances with me. Mostly it was medicare prescription plan I had trouble with, I think it was because I was wanting to know how they planned to repay his estate the money they took from his account a month after he passed! My oldest sister is listed as executor in his will, but we thougth I was also listed, but that was only if she passed away befor him. She lives 500 miles away and since he lived here the past 3 years everything comes to me.

So anyway, just to help others who may go through the same thing, be prepared!!!!

Good luck to all of you, you are in ,my prayers.

The caregiver's voice answered...

A nightmare if there ever was one. I encountered this with my father...even while he was still somewhat aware. However, he had so much paperwork and cryptic or incomplete notes on torn pieces of paper, it took several months to make sense of it all and then I still had to wait a year for the statements to arrive--monthly, quarterly, annually--before we had a handle on most of his insurance, investments, savings, etc. Then there were two old safety-deposit(?) keys ... but to which bank? We still don't know and nothing turned up when searching for "unclaimed property." How do you make sense of it all? It takes time and persistence. I called the number on an earmarked piece of paper. It was an attorney my father retained. However the attorney was no longer with the firm. Several more calls and faxing over my power of attorney each time and the story unfolded ... My best to you and your brother as you unearth the mysteries of your mother's assets.