POWER OF ATTORNEY ~ Seniors and the Law

SENIORS AND THE LAW is authored by the attorneys at Jackson White Attorneys at Law and addresses legal issues that arise for the elderly and their families.  Questions can be sent to firm@jacksonwhitelaw.com.
Q:      Years ago, my father added me to what I believed were all of his financial accounts.  The rationale here was that he wanted me to manage his funds in the event that he became unable to do so personally.  He has since digressed into severe dementia and most of his funds have been depleted.  I recently discovered that he has an IRA account on which I am not named.  Dad does not understand how to close this account and access the funds – is there any way for me to do this for him?
            My first question to you would be whether or not your father executed a financial power of attorney while he was able.  It sounds like he wanted you to handle his affairs, as evidenced by him adding you to his other accounts, but unless he executed a power of attorney memorializing as much, you cannot access his IRA on his behalf.  Sadly, this would be true even if the IRA held his last sum of money and he was in desperate need of those funds for sustenance.
            If your father does not have a financial power of attorney, and he did not designate you as his agent under a power of attorney of the institution that holds his IRA account, you would need to petition the court for conservatorship in order to access those funds.  In a case like this, I would suggest seeking a limited conservatorship, just to handle the single transaction of closing the IRA.  Limited conservatorships are simpler in nature because they do not have the same accounting requirements as full conservatorships.  In short, if your father did not execute a power of attorney, and if this is the only transaction you need to handle, a limited conservatorship could be a very suitable remedy to your dilemma.      
Richard White is an elder law attorney at JacksonWhite Attorneys at Law.  For more information on Elder Law at JacksonWhite, please visit www.ArizonaSeniorLaw.com
This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace individual legal advice.
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