Legal-Ease: Pitfalls to avoid when helping parents


By Lee R. Schroeder - Guest Columnist



Many children, including adult children, can feel that their parents are overly nosy or sometimes too long-winded. However, almost everything that our parents do, as frustrating as those things can sometimes be, comes from a place of the deepest and most sincere love known to humankind.

When parents get involved in their kids’ (including adult kids’) lives in ways that do not always seem altruistic, that is often the way the parents are trying to help their kids avoid the mistakes that parents had to learn the hard way.

When caring for a parent in his or her mature years, kids are given the opportunity to return some of the parents’ love. However, there are four key pitfalls to avoid for an adult child who is helping a parent.

First, do not over-commit, especially physically. Even if an adult child is a physician or other medical professional, there is a big difference between a double-shift at work and living with or being continuously on-call for a parent who is in ill health.

Second, ensure that parents have powers of attorney for healthcare and for finances that are signed while the parents have sufficient mental capacity. It is especially crucial that the financial power of attorney include the power to gift assets and the power to apply for government assistance in case Medicaid, VA or other government benefits may become available to the parent in the future.

Third, when using parents’ powers of attorney to sign documents and conduct other affairs of parents, be sure that every signature makes it clear that the child signing is only signing on behalf of the parent. This precludes the child from becoming personally liable for the parent’s bills.

The proper way to sign for a parent under a power of attorney is to sign the parent’s name and then print the word “by” followed by the signing child’s name. It is also acceptable for the child to sign the child’s name and then follow that signature with “POA for” followed by the parent’s name.

Fourth, be careful in how parents’ affairs are handled, particularly as to gifting parents’ money and assets. Practically speaking, for most of us in our region, there is no limit on the values of gifts given over a lifetime that will not be taxed to the giver or the receiver. However, selling assets at a “family discount” or giving away assets can be very problematic if an application for Medicaid is possible or expected in the next several years.

Additionally, even if Medicaid is not on the horizon for a parent, gifts can sometimes be required to be literally returned if the transfer was intended to make a parent impoverished to avoid paying bills and other financial obligations that have already been incurred or are likely to be incurred soon.

Similarly, carefulness in handling affairs includes communicating with other siblings and ensuring that any controversial actions on behalf of a parent are literally, physically signed-off on by the parent if possible.

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By Lee R. Schroeder

Guest Columnist

Lee R. Schroeder is an Ohio licensed attorney at Schroeder Law LLC in Putnam County. He limits his practice to business, real estate, estate planning and agriculture issues in northwest Ohio. He can be reached at Lee@LeeSchroeder.com or at 419-659-2058. This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed attorney of your choice based upon the specific facts and circumstances that you face.

Lee R. Schroeder is an Ohio licensed attorney at Schroeder Law LLC in Putnam County. He limits his practice to business, real estate, estate planning and agriculture issues in northwest Ohio. He can be reached at Lee@LeeSchroeder.com or at 419-659-2058. This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed attorney of your choice based upon the specific facts and circumstances that you face.

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