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

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 Answer

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