How Do I Help Mom?
Your mom has everything in order. Years ago she entered into an estate plan which included a trust, durable power of attorney, last will and testament and health care documents. She named you to manage her affairs in the event she became unable to do so. That day has arrived. She needs your help. How do you help her now?
Health: The HIPAA form allows medical personnel to release information to you. The Advance Health Care Directive (AHCD) authorizes you to make decisions regarding your mother’s health care. After your mother passes, the funeral home may need a copy of the AHCD if you choose cremation.
Finances: The manner in which your mother currently holds title to an asset will determine the document you will need to access and manage assets for her care.
• Assets held in your mother’s sole name. Title to checking accounts and vehicles is often retained in an individual’s name rather than transferred to a trust. For accounts that are not held in a trust, the durable power of attorney form gives you authority to act in regard to that asset. In addition, you may need to provide a copy of the durable power of attorney when you contact insurance carriers, the Social Security Administration or pension providers to enable them to speak to you on your mother’s behalf.
• Assets held in your mother’s trust. How you will take over as successor Trustee of your mother’s trust depends upon the terms of the Trust. If your mother still retains capacity, she may execute a resignation as Trustee and then you would execute an acceptance by Trustee. If your mother no longer has capacity, it may be necessary to obtain a letter from one or two doctors attesting to that fact. You will then execute an updated Trustee’s certification of trust which states that you are now the acting Trustee of the Trust. The Trustee’s certification of trust may then be provided to any institution where your mother holds title to accounts in the Trust, i.e. brokerage accounts, bank accounts.
This may be a very stressful time for you and your mother. It is strongly recommended that you seek the advice of a qualified estate planning attorney to ease the process.