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Case Study: A Senior in Need
2019 was a very interesting and eye opening experience for us. Joe was preparing a senior tax return for Anne (fictitious name) and Sam (fictitious name) but put the return on hold pending missing documents. A few weeks later, Joe called to inquire about the status only to discover that Sam had suffered a massive heart attack and died. Anne was in a state of confusion and despair. She had no idea how she was going to survive either financially or personally. We visited Anne at her residence to complete and file her 2018 tax return. We discussed her situation and volunteered to help organize her finances.
Personal and Financial Disarray!
We began assisting Anne in late April 2019. After developing a financial assessment that included; assets and liabilities, monthly cash flow analysis, and a one year income expense projection we discovered that Anne was running a large financial deficit every month and unless things changed soon, Anne was going to run out of money by the end of 2019. To compound her problems, she had no savings or investments to fall back on and no family nearby to help. It was apparent that due to Anne’s poor health she would not be able to manage her financial or personal situation without assistance. She was not in a safe place and was truly a person in need.
Once Anne’s financial assessment was completed, we met with a lawyer on her behalf. While the lawyer was sympathetic to Anne’s situation, s/he suggested that Anne could stop paying her mortgage, stay in her house for about one year and await foreclosure (and subsequent eviction). OR she could file for bankruptcy protection. This meeting was going nowhere and was absolutely of no benefit to Anne, the person. However, it did smack of potential legal fees. We quickly abandoned this avenue of pursuit.
Disaster Looming on the Horizon
Here’s a recap of Anne’s personal and financial situation on May 1, 2019:
- mortgage payment consuming over half of her monthly income.
- house that was cluttered, unsafe, and in need of repair.
- car lease with 24 payments remaining.
- medically unfit to drive.
- outstanding medical bills.
- overdue credit card payments (balances).
- joint-survivor pension benefit not being received.
- outstanding Federal and State back taxes owed.
- annual income that exceeded the limits to qualify for government assistance programs by less than $1,000.
- poor health and undergoing psychiatric counseling.
- not able to take care of herself or live alone.
- except for volunteer medical rides she was confined to her house.
- not able to afford assisted living.
- one neighborhood couple who was willing to provide “limited” personal and medical assistance.
- facing potential legal fees – probate, estate, power of attorney, debt default, bankruptcy.
The Game Plan!
We felt the best outcome for Anne would be; to sell the house for a profit, payoff outstanding debt and move to a safe place. Joe began to explore options for selling the house. After a failed attempt to work with a person who is in real estate investing (basically a house flipper), Joe was introduced to a local realtor who shared his vision of helping a person in need. Jack (fictitious name) believed that selling Anne’s house for a profit was easily achievable and together they set in motion a plan to make the house ready for sale. In the meantime, Elaine worked tirelessly to convince Anne that she should relocate to her brother’s home in a nearby state while her house was being sold. Anne finally agreed but before she could go she was diagnosed with bladder failure. After a 2 week delay Anne was given the okay to move to her brother’s house. We loaded up our SUV and drove Anne to her brother’s home.
A Huge Personal and Financial Win!
Anne’s personal and financial situation on Feb 1, 2020:
- deposited most of the net profit from sale of the house into her checking account
- paid off the mortgage balance saving over one-half of her monthly income.
- settled her car lease outstanding balance with no additional payments.
- paid off all outstanding medical bills.
- paid off all outstanding credit card balances.
- spouse’s company now sends joint-survivor pension benefit payment timely.
- paid off outstanding Federal and State back taxes owed.
- annual income still exceeds the limits to qualify for government assistance programs by less than $1,000.
- enrolled in a new medical plan. we worked with her new medical team to bring them up to speed on her situation.
- moved Anne to brother’s home – she is now in a safe place and getting much needed family support.
- avoided legal fees
- eliminated elder care service charges for inferior third party homemaker services.
- continue to manage Anne’s finances, prepare and file her taxes and keep a close eye on her medical situation.
There is a lot more to Anne’s story and we’ll share it with you over time. However, here are some things we’d like to pass on.
- seniors living alone without a trusted support network of family, friends, or affordable support services are in personal danger. They are frightened and do not know what to do or who to call. They are truly “persons in need”.
- assisted living is not FREE.
- nursing homes are a place to live out your life only as a last resort.
- we were told, much to our amazement, countless times that we were being used by Anne and that we should just WALK AWAY and let the system take care of her. Really! What system?
- going it alone to medical appointments can be dangerous to your health. See our post on this topic.
- being confined to one’s house is debilitating. Anne was unable to prepare meals and not able to drive. She was completely dependent on third party assistance. However, at that time, she could not afford to pay for it.
- elder services organizations are okay if you can afford to pay for their services. However, they lack the expertise to guide the person with all facets of their life – personal, financial, and health. There is much more to be said here.
- visiting nurses are good (and responsible).
- professional consultations with lawyers, financial advisors and insurance agents at your local senior center are not really free – they’re marketing opportunities in disguise.
- seniors whose income is “barely” above threshold limits for federal and state “assistance” programs are in a precarious situation.
We are Seniors Helping Seniors!
Guiding Anne from disaster to well-being was long and arduous, but worth it. We know we can’t help everyone who is a “person in need” and that’s not the point. We ask that each of you who read Anne’s story, look around and, if you see, or know, of a person in need help them as best you can. These people are scared and do not know how to get out of their predicament. Ask for help. Seek help. If we hadn’t found Jack, the realtor with a heart, Anne’s story may have turned out much differently. Our research shows that the senior population is projected to grow by an average of 2.3 million people per year through 2030. There will be many seniors who will become a “person in need”.