When my father was in the hospital last February in Seattle, my mother and I made an overnight run to their Island home to collect bills and water the plants. I walked into a paper nightmare. This included finding four years of unfiled tax returns, and all the paper associated with such. It was in drifts, boxes and piles. I hauled 5 heaping banker boxes out, much to my mothers fretting, anxiety and outright hostility. It was when I burst into tears, as she rounded on me again, that I channeled my upset & adrenalin and was able to make her understand that she and dad were at risk of an IRS bank account sweep. She became complaint with my actions but was still full of paranoia. She knew they had a BIG problem and I was the only one who had the context to fix it easily.
After my father passed away, I worked through the back taxes and came to realize they had a Charitable Giving problem. Over the last four years they had given $3500-$4500 a year in cash gifts, most of it in $15-$40 amounts. They had been treating requests for money like bills. 2012, when my mother took over paying the bills due to my father’s failing eyesight, was the worst. Now, in the absence of my father’s limited oversight of the finances, it’s up to me to keep an eye on this behavior. I’ve talked to mom about this countless time, used a free website, Catalog Choice, to put a governor on the charity mail requests and have made a few amazingly vicious phone calls. It helps to have my mom’s POA in this situation. The mailbox pleas are reduced significantly at both houses. I have access to her banking online and can see the financial blood letting has slowed remarkably. It took A LOT of time to accomplish this.
The stress this has caused surprised me. Mom isn’t hurting financially but it’s a huge red flag as to how easily she can be taken advantage of.