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How do I help my mom?

I think my elderly mom needs help. I do not know her financial situation. I have no authority over her. what do I do?
Status: Open    Jun 22, 2015 - 10:09 AM


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Aug 19, 2015 - 01:18 PM

If mom will give you a power of attorney, you can get the info you need to help her.

Aug 20, 2015 - 09:10 AM

There are two legal options for helping your mother with her financial situation, depending on her current mental condition. First, if your mother is mentally capable and competent, your attorney can draft the legal documents necessary to establish a Power of Attorney. A Power of Attorney allows your mother to choose who will be in control of her affairs. As an “agent” for your mother, the Power of Attorney can have general powers or specific powers over her estate and decision making ability, depending on her preference. For instance, your mother could designate you, a family member, or another trusted third-party person as her financial decision maker, while vesting another person with control over her medical decisions.

The second option would be to apply for legal guardianship. Applying for a legal guardianship is necessary if your mother lacks the mental capacity to competently select her own Power of Attorney. In a guardianship application, the probate court authorizes a person with the power and/or financial decisions over your mother. A family member, friend, or third-party can apply for legal guardianship.

A Power of Attorney is typically preferred over Guardianship for several reasons. First and foremost, your mother retains the power to choose who will make her decisions, as well as, what decisions each appointed person may make. Secondly, the courts are not involved in the process of appointing a Power of Attorney. Thirdly, your mother retains the ability to revoke the Power of Attorney, as long as she remains mentally capable. Lastly, the cost of creating a Power of Attorney is significantly lower in comparison to applying for a Guardianship. For example, a Power of Attorney(s) typically costs between $100 and $500, whereas, a Guardianship may cost between $2,500 to $5,000 with the possibility of attorney fees accruing to $100,000 or more, if the guardianship is contested. Due to the nature and importance of protecting your mother’s health and estate, we advise you to contact your local attorney for further consultation.

Source: Answer provided by Jeffrey Puff, Esq., Puff & Cockerill LLC, Woodbury, NJ

Aug 26, 2015 - 10:13 AM

Depending on your mother’s mental and physical capacity, there are two possible avenues to consider: power of attorney and guardianship.

Power of Attorney

If competent, and if willing, your mother can sign a power of attorney delegating you as her attorney in fact. The purpose of the power of attorney is to provide for your mother’s transfer of authority to you

The language of the document is critical. When your mother is making arrangements for the document, the exact terms of the agreement are something she needs to discuss with her attorney. The document itself will define what authority is granted, and to whom authority should fall.

Two separate authority zones must be considered: health care and financial. Regarding financial decisions, a power of attorney will enable you to pay bills and make necessary decisions. Regarding health care, a properly drafted document will give you authority to review your mother’s medical records, discuss her care with her physicians, and make decisions on her behalf.


If your mother lacks capacity (in New Jersey courts require certifications from two physicians attesting to same) and has delegated no one authority to act on her behalf, it is necessary to seek a guardianship. With a guardianship, the court will make a determination as to whether your mother requires assistance in the management of her person (health decisions) and property, and if so, who should act on your mother’s behalf.

This procedure is more complex (and therefore more expensive) than a simple power of attorney. However, the window of opportunity for a power of attorney closes with incapacity. If there comes a time when your mother is mentally incapacitated, she will be unable to knowingly sign a power of attorney -guardianship will be necessary.

Good luck with your mother. It sounds as though you are entering a hard zone and I hope all goes well.


Sep 10, 2015 - 09:13 AM

Depending on your relationship with your mother, there are several different first steps you could take. You could discuss with your mother the option of visiting with an attorney to set up a Power of Attorney naming someone to assist her with her finances. If you feel as though your mother is incapable of making financial decisions, you could ask a court to name you or someone else as her Guardian. (You would need an attorney to help you through this process.) Or, there are likely local resources like an Elder Abuse Hotline or other information line that may be able to help your mother or give you additional direction about your particular situation.


Jun 23, 2015 - 02:55 PM

First thing is to sit and have "the talk"
Ask her what her wishes are and discuss having trust put in place, POA's for health and finances.
You could even tell her that you are doing these things for yourself..and you should....and it just got you thinking about her and what she wants to do in the event anything happens.
Just like "the talk" she probably had with you 40, 50 or more years ago it is difficult to start the conversation but everyone feels better once the information is out there.
If you are the only child then this is a great concern to you as you will be the one that will have to wade through a quagmire of legal stuff should she become incapacitated or for some reason become unable to make decisions for herself.
Next thing is to get a lawyer that knows Elder Law and allow them to help getting the papers done that she and you will need. And this is something that is best done before you need it as it will become a real problem if you have to get guardianship, just a lot more complicated and costly.
Good luck with the talk.
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