My father had a profound stroke. He now has severe dementia and delusions. Sibling and I need to get power of attorney and also speak with a lawyer to determine long-term issues and help get rid of his crushing debt. Do I need an elder law attorney or an estate planning attorney, and what else might I need to know?
posted by anonymous to law & government (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
My 72-year-old father had a profound stroke several months ago. Prior to that, he was overseeing his own (very small) company, which he owns exclusively, managing several employees and living independently; the stroke left him with moderate dementia, psychosis and delusions. He is in a room-and-board care facility, paid for by long-term care insurance. He will not get better or be able to return to his old life, or manage anything about his life. He has no short-term memory, cannot read or even follow the plot of a lame sitcom. It's as if he had a lobotomy. He is in a wheelchair and needs help toileting, feeding himself, taking meds, and must be watched 24-7 as he has severe sundowner's syndrome. He has no one but my sister and my. It's all horrific and sad.
My sister is paying his credit card bills and other bills as they come in from his checking account, and is in contact with the employees of the company to keep things moving smoothly, and fights monthly with the life insurance company to get the checks they owe him so we can continue to pay for his care. But Sis can't continue overseeing the employees and juggling checks for much longer the way things are - she works full-time and is a single mom, and has no money of her own to bail Dad out (neither do I).
What Sis has discovered is that Dad accrued more than $30,000 in personal credit card debt over the past few years, and also has sunk considerable amounts of money into his little company, as it is barely self-sustaining. All told he probably has in excess of $100,000 worth of personal debt, with no savings at all, or retirement fund. No assets – no car, no property – expect for the actual furniture and equipment pieces of the business itself. Dad does not draw a salary from the company, but it was paying his rent for the apartment he no longer has (since the stroke), and was also covering some incidentals. He gets a small Social Security check every month, which is not even covering his minimum due payments on his cards. So, none of this is sustainable for more than a few more months.
We are going to pursue power of attorney, with Dad's blessing, to be able to manage his financial issues. My sister already is on Dad's bank account, per Dad's request, which is how she has been able to write checks for him. I do not know if an estate lawyer or elder law attorney is the way to go to get advice on selling his company or not [it's worth almost nothing - an employee is interested in buying, which may mean taking over the debt], how to negotiate down or walk away from his credit debt, how to ensure his long-term care insurance continues to cover his care, and whatever else we are missing. I have some personal experience with credit counseling and negotiating down debt, but have no experience with bankruptcy or legal disability issues.
I do not know how to choose which lawyer to approach in his town. Dad is 200 miles away and I do not even know where to start looking for advice on what to do for him in terms of managing his debt and obligations. We both just want to protect him and help him as much as possible. And I very much want to be able to lift this burden from my sister, who lives near Dad and has been graciously trying to do all of this simply because she lives closer.
You are not my lawyer/you may or may not be a lawyer/I am not asking for legal advice, etc, etc, but if anyone has experience with something similar, what sort of lawyer might I be looking for? How do I pick one, when they all seem similar? Do I even need one? Is there anything I am missing or any additional advice you can think of? And if you have been through this, you have my profound sympathy.