How do we stifle Dad's friendship with someone who may be exploiting him?
My father attends a senior center in Ft Lauderdale three times a week. He has made a few friends there but recently a woman has been making demands on his time-when we ask my father about this woman he is vague and tells us they are just friends. Now we found out that they are going somewhere on Monday-these plans do not include them attending the classes and programs at the senior center nor is this a sponsored field trip. My father will not tell us what he is doing or where they are going that day.
We are worried only because she mentioned to my father that she is at risk of being deported and needs his help to avoid this. If this help she seeks is financial he won't say. My father was declared incompetent three years ago and has been preyed upon three times financially, once successfully. We have taken steps and canceled his credit card but he still has access to his checking and money market account. My sister looks out for his finances and pays his day to day bills.
Outside of going to court and hiring an attorney, what is the best option to handle this situation? Again, it could be totally innocent but my dad's caginess when we ask him his plans is putting us on edge to be alert to every possibility, and his past history is worrisome. We are talking to him again but in case he don't get a satisfactory answer we will have to take action.
Thanks for your help
Dear Walterrob: You are right to be concerned about protecting your parent from a scamming friend. The key to your question is that your father was declared incompetent 3 years ago. He has already been victimized three times in the past. Given this, it is hard to imagine how your family has allowed him to continue to have access to his money market and checking accounts. This must stop immediately! I hope that one of you obtained his signature on a durable power of attorney before he became incompetent. If so, exercise your authority and cut off his access to those accounts right away. If you and your father all failed to plan ahead, as is unfortunately common, you have no choice now but to go forward with a guardianship, also called a conservatorship in my state of CA. The court will then give you authority that could otherwise have been gotten much less expensively by a durable power of attorney document.
The only alternative is to watch his cunning "friend" take advantage of him financially and in any other way she can. This is a highly dangerous situation for him. His "friend" may be desperate. Your father may be lonely and emotionally needy. This can be a tragic combination and he may unwittingly think he loves her and may want to give her all his money. As an attorney who works with elders and their families, I have certainly seen this kind of situation before. Based on that, I can only urge you to act immediately, and stop your father from being ripped off by continuing to permit him access to money when he is no longer competent to make financial decisions.
Because his is incompetent, he is also subject to manipulation, which his "friend" will use freely. You may be worried that your father will become angry with you. You may be afraid of "taking away his freedom". These are some of the excuses I've heard from family members when their elder is being taken advantage of while they stand around doing nothing. If he gets angry, it's too bad, but it's far better than permitting the crime of elder financial abuse to take place while you watch. The same for taking away his freedom. Unfortunately, the disease process, dementia, or whatever condition caused him to become incompetent in the first place is what took away his freedom. Now you, as the adult children, must step up and assume responsibility for decisions your father is absolutely no longer safe to make. Take courage and do what you must to protect your father. It is your duty as family, and it's not optional unless you don't care what happens to his money. His financial safety is at stake.