PHOENIX, January 25, 2014 – Let me begin by stating a simple fact: my mother has dementia. Dealing with a parent with dementia is an adventure, certainly for the parent, but also for the family members.
Ask my mom about her day and one is likely to get an answer as perplexing and tortured as that of any White House spokesperson explaining why the administration can’t call Islamic terrorism what it is.
No, I take that back, my mother – with dementia – is infinitely more coherent than the Obama White House.
Since my mom is no longer capable of making day-to-day decisions, that responsibility falls to my siblings and me. (Our father died in 2001). We take care of her basic daily needs, her well-being and handle her finances.
This leads me to my main topic, dealing with financial needs of my elderly mother with dementia. My mom’s checking account is in the name of a trust that was set up by my father. My siblings and I are named on the account as trustees.
A trust document drawn up by an attorney properly allows us to make any financial decisions and otherwise conduct her financial affairs on her behalf. We also have power of attorney. It seems simple enough that even a banker could understand it.
Or, so we thought!
While not wealthy, my dad left my mom in decent shape financially. Granted, she’d be in a lot better shape if not for the financial collapse of 2008. While she was still of sound mind, my mom was not shy about whom she blamed for that – Democrats, Republicans, Fannie, Freddie, Dodd, Frank, and on and on.
As I was then and still am of sound mind (enough with the snide comments already), I have to agree with her.
My mom also recently received a cash settlement resulting from a class-action lawsuit. Believing the bank would be a slightly more secure place for that money than taping it to her front door, we deposited it into her checking account. (My philosophy regarding class-action lawsuits will be left for another day).
Her checking account is with one of the largest banks in the country. It advertises regularly on television and has its name on sports arenas.
And it treats my mom’s money as if it belongs to them.
Before I go further, I should note that I have also had my own misadventures with my bank. There have been times where the bank was quite free to make my account available to almost anyone – except me. I have had to change my password more times than ISIS has changed its name.
My account has been hacked so many times that to make a withdrawal I now must prove that I am not me.
The list of those who have access to my money ahead of me is lengthy and reads as follows:
- My bank
- Any 16 year-old kid with a laptop
- The Russian Mafia
- Lois Lerner
- A day hostess at a lovely restaurant in Milan, Italy
- Four orangutans that reside at the Omaha Zoo
- My cell phone provide
- Your cell phone provider
- The comedian Carrot Top
- My bank – again
Back to my mom’s account, any time that my siblings or I attempt to make any transaction with the bank a scene from a Marx Brothers movie ensues.
For example, we deposited the settlement check from the class-action lawsuit into her checking account. That, in and of itself, went off without incident. Since it was not an insignificant amount, we soon got a call from a banker suggesting that we open up a savings account. With identity thieves lurking about it, he indicated it was not wise to keep so much money in her checking account.
“You know,” said the banker, “It’s just not safe to have so much money in a checking account. It might get hacked.”
We appreciated his prudent advice, but didn’t much appreciate his lack of confidence in his own bank’s ability to keep my mom’s money, well, my mom’s money.
(As has been well documented in the news over the past couple of years, just about anything can be hacked – Target, Sony Pictures, the Pentagon’s Central Command Twitter account. This naturally raises the question – why does CentComm have a Twitter account? #dronestrikes)
So, my siblings and I paid a visit to the bank to do just what the banker suggested – open a savings account for my mom. “Oh,” the banker said, “Her account is in the name of a trust.”
“Yes, it is,” I confidently replied and handed over to him a copy of the trust documents. I should point out that this was hardly the first time we had provided the bank with this document. Nor was it the second or even the fifth time. At least half a dozen other times we had gone through this process for various other seemingly routine transactions.
Each time the same thing happens. The banker must send a copy of the trust document to the bank’s “legal department.”
This was a Saturday morning. I would not trust a “legal department” staffed with people sitting in a call center on a Saturday morning to help me beat a parking ticket, let alone do anything concerning money. Yet, one of the largest banks in the country does. Think about that for a minute!
I have no more confidence that the bank’s “legal department” has any better understanding of the law than Barack Obama has of the Constitution. (Can one imagine Barack Obama manning a Constitutional Law call center? Every answer would be, “Well, of course the president has that authority”).
Soon we heard that the bank would not allow us to open a savings account for my mom, at least not without my mom – who still has dementia – being present. The bank would not let us do what the bank suggested we needed to do!
And this is about where the dialogue between Groucho and Chico should begin.
“There is one thing you could do,” the banker said. “You could have your mom declared incompetent.”
“Sure,” I responded. “Right after we do the same for you.”
The skirmish continues…