When Mom moves in…do we need to seek legal counsel?

In our last post, we shared tips to creating boundaries with multiple generations sharing the same home. Although there are many rewards and challenges to sharing a home with generations of family members, blended households may require extra attention, such as an attorney or trust officer’s assistance to anticipate problems, mediate family disputes and prepare written agreements, particularly when money is involved.

As professional geriatric care managers in the field of aging, we are often called upon by attorneys and trust officers to provide solutions to a variety of challenges that may surface when working on an elderly client’s legal or financial issues. In this post, we will guide you through some of the legal considerations of a move.

Before a parent moves into your home, it’s important to get your legal ducks in a row to minimize any disagreements and resentment among family members in the future. Try to work out as many of these issues as you can before the big move.

You may want to consider some of the following legal documents that can allow your parents to put their wishes in writing and put their minds, as well as yours, at ease.

  • Joint bank account ownership – Being joint owners of a bank account with your parents allows you to act on your parents’ behalf in an emergency.
  • Representative Payee – A representative payee can be named for a person who receives only governmental benefits, such as Social Security or SSI. The payee, who can be a trustworthy relative, friend or professional, manages the person’s funds.
  • Personal Care Agreement – Also called a long-term care personal support services agreement, elder care contract, or family care or caregiver contract, this agreement clarifies for a family what tasks are expected in return for a stated compensation. It can help avoid family conflicts about who will provide care and how much money will change hands. It can offer family caregivers security that they will not suffer undue financial consequences while providing your loved one peace of mind that she or he has a caring advocate to manage care needs.
  • Durable Power of Attorney for Finances (DPA) – A DPA allows your parents to give you the legal authority to make all financial decisions on their behalf.
  • Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care – This form of DPA allows your parents to give you the legal right to make decisions regarding their medical treatment when they are temporarily or permanently unable to make their own.
  • Advance DirectivesIn a surprising number of families, there is disagreement over what a very ill relative would prefer in terms of care and treatment. The written instructions of an advance directive make these wishes clear to family and medical personnel when your parents can no longer speak for themselves.
  • Living Will – Once in place, this directs the doctor to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment should a parent be diagnosed with a terminal condition and be unable to state his or her preference.


Because laws vary from state to state, you should consult with an attorney who is knowledgeable in estate and assets management for assistance in legal planning. An elder law attorney can help your family create a plan that takes all the various contingencies into account, so that everyone is on the same page and knows what to expect.  

Decide how much you and your siblings will each pay toward the cost of extra food, utilities, home retrofitting and nursing or other care. You can revise the documents later if your parent’s medical or care expenses change. Openly discuss legal and financial arrangements with all family members to keep them updated on new expenditures and apprised of accounts. For a list of attorneys that specialize in elder-law issues, go to www.naela.org.

In our next post, we’ll cover some key financial factors to consider — and to plan for — if you’re contemplating this transition. For more resources for family caregivers, visit our website at www.YourEldercareConsultants.com.

Reflections from your editor, Cindy Sher, on people living their Jewish lives each day. ... Read More

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