Age: 94 years old
Support: Widow, no children or local family. No POA
Health Status: Legally blind, significant hearing loss & two other chronic conditions requiring pain management and a walker. Aging in place & homebound.
Financial Resources: SS & Teacher’s Pension
May 2018, Anne requested assistance from a home health agency after her most recent hospital discharge. Part of her service request was tax preparation assistance as her taxes had not been filed and her previous CPA was no longer in business. The home health agency referred her to Senior Checks & Balances (SCB) for guidance.
After an introductory phone call with a Senior Checks & Balances advisor and the initial in-home assessment, a work plan and calendar were laid out that Anne was comfortable moving forward with.
- Two sessions per week @ two hours each for two weeks
- Daily activity logs for Anne to review
- Filing system to organize documentation based on the following headers:
o Tax documents
o Income documentation (including SS)
o Healthcare spending/expenses
o Gifting/Charitable receipts
o Real estate/tax info
o Banking Info
Over the course of the sessions, Anne & her SCB advisor were able to capture & organize her 2017 tax documents, relevant receipts and other documentation. For those items that were not available or misplaced, SCB worked as Anne’s agent to obtain copies in a timely manner. Once the tax package was complete, SCB introduced Anne to a trusted CPA that worked on her behalf directly with the IRS to have penalties abated based on medical exemption and file her return.
While there are no concrete numbers on how often taxes are not filed due to illness or lack of support, the greater concern is that there are no current safety nets in the system to insure all filings and enrollments for seniors are done in a timely manner. More often than not, failure to file is not caught until the individual has past away or finances have reached a critical failure. At this juncture, the individual’s estate will be further compromised through audit and probate.
In 2019, the IRS will be introducing the 1040SR which is available to any taxpayer 65 or older without significant income restrictions. Similar to the 1040EZ, this new filing tool was developed for those, like Anne, with relatively simple or uncomplicated finances – but therein lies the issue. Senior finances are complicated. First, it does not further insure that a chronically ill senior with diminished competency will file. Also, tax code and deductions around senior living and healthcare are extremely complicated and require professional assistance to insure all deductions are captured appropriately. Only the standard deductions can be taken when using the 1040SR.
Despite popular beliefs, dementia is not always at play. As we age, our ability to perform or recall the steps to tasks that were once routine diminish with or without any cognitive decline. Having the conversation early and often is the key to staving off financial errors or incidents. In the case where family is available to step in once their loved one is not longer capable of managing their day to day, the focus remains on the physical health of the individual while the financial health of their estate remains a secondary concern. Installing safeguards and systems well before there is a critical life event – health or financial.
While Anne’s case is unfortunate, as she has no local family nor a designated POA, anyone can easily fall into the same situation even with an extensive support structure around them. Any individual managing declining health that inherently creates greater financial oversight is best served by engaging a professional to oversee the “workflow” of daily finance, healthcare spending and financial management. A Certified Senior Advisor can establish baseline efficiencies and protections for not only day to day finances but of the overall estate as well when engaged early on. Further a CSA, serves as a valuable member of the individual’s “support structure” for continued autonomy as well as neutral point of contact for all family members.