Late last month I met someone I’ll call Debra at a holiday party and, after she learned I’d written a book on caregiving, she shared her situation with me. Age, dementia, and a head injury have left her mother-in-law, Millie, incompetent to sign legal documents because she can no longer understand what they are or what they mean. Millie never appointed anyone to act as her Power of Attorney (POA) in the event she became unable to manage her affairs.

Her son Jason, Debra’s husband, has Millie’s bank account password and he’s been paying the bills she used to pay online. But Debra and Jason worry that Millie may have paid some bills by check, and those are now going unpaid. They aren’t sure what to do.

Debra and Jason have two separate problems. The first is that they don’t have a complete picture of Millie’s financial situation. They’ll find suggestions for gathering such information in Become an Informed Caregiver: What You Should Know When Caring for an Aging Loved One. The book is available on Amazon.

The second problem: No one has legal authority to use Millie’s money to pay her bills, not even Jason. It’s too late for Millie to name someone as her POA; she’s legally incompetent. Jason cannot name himself.

What’s the solution? Check back next week for the answer! In the meantime, if you’ve faced this situation how did you handle it?