My parents spend too much money!

Photo: cyblor/

 Q. I’m worried about my parents because they keep buying all kinds of things they don’t need. They won’t listen when I offer to help them with the money. What can I do?

A. It’s great that you’re looking out for your parents, but most of us buy things we do not really need.

That by itself isn’t the problem.

If your parents are buying things they do not really need because they consistently forget that they already have the item at home, or they cannot comprehend or fully grasp their finances, perhaps this is a sign of dementia that needs to be addressed with a health care advisor, said Catherine Romania, an estate planning attorney with Whitman Stadtmauer in Florham Park.

“Unnecessary spending may also be a sign of depression that requires medication or other intervention,” Romania said. “If their health care advisor agrees that this is a problem, he/she can work with you in addressing it with your parents.”

You should also discuss your concerns with your parents’ estate planning advisor, Romania said. The advisor may already have documents executed and a plan in place to deal with a decline in your parents’ mental capacity or want to further address such a plan before a continued decline, if that is in fact the case.

Assuming there is evidence of dementia, a plan to address it does not have to take away your parents’ financial independence.

Instead, with your parents’ consent and the assistance of the health care or estate planning advisor, you may be able to arrange to (i) obtain duplicate copies of bank or brokerage statements to monitor their financial status and spending; and/or (ii) set aside the majority of their funds which will require a second signature, such as your own, to access the funds while leaving sufficient funds available for them to spend without restriction, Romania said.

Should the situation becomes more extreme, it is possible to petition the court for guardianship of their persons and/or property, she said.

“Absent your parents’ consent to guardianship, as well as the consent of your siblings — if any — commencing an action may only result in ill-will among family members,” Romania said. “In order to succeed with obtaining a guardianship appointment, you would need two doctors to certify that your parents are impaired by reason of physical illness or disability and lack sufficient capacity to handle their personal and/or financial affairs.”

Then the court would also appoint an attorney to represent your parents’ interest. If appointed as a guardian, reports concerning your parents’ physical and financial state of affairs must be filed with the Court on an annual basis.

Good luck to you, and best of health to your parents.

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This story was first posted in August 2015. presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.