How can I take over paying my mother's bills as she is unable to do so herself?

1 answer | Last updated: Apr 24, 2009
A fellow caregiver asked...

We find that my mother cannot handle paying the bills on her own. She missed the electric bill, her insurance was about to be canceled, and she missed the deadline to getting her taxes in on time. She has the money to pay but my siblings and I want to take over the actual paying so that they are not burdened with this chore. What is the best way to start? They live in Florida and we in Connecticut.

Expert Answers

Steve Weisman hosts the nationally syndicated radio show A Touch of Grey, heard on more than 50 stations, including WABC in New York City and KRLA in Los Angeles. He is a practicing lawyer specializing in estate planning and is admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court. He's a public speaker and commentator who has appeared on many radio and television shows throughout the country, and he's the legal editor of Talkers magazine, the preeminent trade publication of talk radio. His latest book is The Truth About Avoiding Scams.

The simplest and quickest way for you to assist your mother in paying her bills is to have her execute a Durable Power of Attorney, which is a document that will authorize you to act on her behalf in financial matters. The Durable Power of Attorney is drawn up by a lawyer on your mother's behalf and can be as broad or as limited as she wishes.  This, of course, assumes that your mother wishes you to perform these services for her.  If she does not wish to give you this authority and you believe she is incapable of managing her finances, you can petiton the court in your mother's home state to be appointed conservator of her estate which would give you the authority you seek.  This, however, is a more time consuming and expensive alternative to using a Durable Power of Attorney.