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Monday, April 5, 2010

What can a senior do if someone is pushing too hard to help with finances?

What can an elderly person do when someone is pressuring them to "help" with finances? A few days ago I spoke with a woman in her late 80's who wanted to talk about a neighbour who wanted to help her with her banking and investing. She felt that the neighbour was pushing way too hard to get involved.

The woman, my customer, is tiny and frail-looking but still has every one of her wits about her. She is widowed and has no children. She has a significant amount of money. She still lives in her family home. A neighbour that she doesn't know very well offered to do some yard work for her, and she gratefully accepted. Eventually the neighbour progressed past the yard work and started insisting that my customer let him help with banking. My customer doesn't want this, as she feels it is private information, and she is managing quite well by herself. She really feels pressured and asked me how she can stop this neighbour's pushiness without turning him into an enemy.

There's a fine line between offering to help and being pushy to the point that you set off a person's alarm bells. Many a well-intentioned person has been too heavy-handed and unintentionally caused a problem. I don't know my customer's neighbour and have no way of independently assessing his motives. But in this case I'm prepared to follow my customer's gut instinct without question.

My customer had already decided to name the trust company where I work as the executor of her estate after her death, as she did not have a family member to take on that task. She has now also decided to name the trust company under her Enduring Power of Attorney. That gives the trust company the ability to look after her finances if and when she needs help. We won't get involved until she needs or wants us to.

The best part of this for the customer is that now she can say to the pushy neighbour that she has put all of her finances in the hands of a trustee, so she doesn't need help from him. She left our office smiling, feeling that she'd asked a question and received a response that really works for her. I felt good too, because I may have helped to prevent a case of elder abuse.

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