Loaning Money to Family Members


By Michael Kelly

It has become increasingly common for seniors to be approached by family members for financial assistance, often in the form of a loan. Many seniors, out of kindness and love toward that family member, loan money to them informally (i.e. without a promissory note or other written promise to pay it back).

Informally lending money to anyone, let alone a loved one, is never a good idea. While it is admirable to help a loved one going through difficulty, it is also important to protect yourself. A properly drafted and executed promissory note can help you accomplish that in a number of ways:

  1. It puts the loan arrangement in writing, giving you a way to enforce it in court, if necessary. This is your money and you have every right and expectation that it will be returned to you. A formal writing is therefore appropriate.


  1. In the case of fraud or deceit by the relative (or any other person you loan money to) you can take a larger tax write off for the loss than you would be able to take if it were simply a personal loan that was not repaid. The writing helps to prove fraud was involved. Lack of a writing leaves the existence of a loan in doubt (was it a gift?) without even getting to fraud. At best you are relegated to a very limited loss write off for a personal bad debt.


For Example:


Senior, retired and on a fixed income of $45,000 per year, loaned Junior $50,000 to start a business. Junior uses the money to go on exotic trips and for drugs.


Unless Senior has some evidence of a loan, the IRS is likely to consider the $50,000 a gift with no write-off. Even if he can prove it was a loan he is likely to get a deduction of no more than $3,000 under existing tax rules regarding bad personal debts. If there is a properly drafted and executed promissory note Senior may be able to write off almost 90% of the $50,000 as a casualty theft loss due to the existence of fraud and deceit, a huge tax savings for a person on a fixed-income.


The moral of this story is “Don’t let love and benevolence trump good common sense.”



How Do We Know if We Need to Go to Probate?

Q: A loved one recently passed away and we are not sure how to handle the real estate left behind. How do we know if we need to go to probate?

A: Often-times families are left with property due to a death of a loved one which is only transferrable through a Probate Court proceeding. Sometimes the family can legally access and use the property without going to probate

This often occurs where other persons are part owners of the property but there is no automatic right of survivorship transfer of title on the death of a co-owner. This most often happens with real estate.

Family members continue to live in or rent the property out with no apparent adverse consequence. At some point they go to sell the property and find that they cannot pass a clear and good title. They then have to scramble to clean up a mess before the buyer moves on to buy another property. Additional co-owners can also die in the meantime causing further complications. For these reasons kicking the can down the road is not the way to go.

These problems can be prevented with effective probate avoiding devices such as trusts, various forms of deeds, or a combination of both, as circumstances dictate. If the death has already occurred, a probate proceeding should be commenced immediately to transfer title to the appropriate persons who can then institute preventative measures to provide non-probate transfer when they die.

An elder law, estate planning and probate attorney can be very instrumental in putting these measures in place and should be contacted immediately to assist in this endeavor.

Michael Kelly is an attorney whose practice focuses on estate planning, elder law, special needs planning, and probate as well as tax planning and return preparation. Kelly works with older adults and families to get their personal affairs in order, regarding legal, financial and long term care matters.  His practice includes an adult care advisor who assists clients by connecting them with resources, helping coordinate care, and with many other issues. Mr. Kelly can be reached at (623) 628-1110, email:


My Spouse is becoming very forgetful – What Should I Do?

My spouse is becoming very forgetful about things that would normally be remembered. I’m worried that the cause may be Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia. What should I do?

An obvious first step is to have your spouse checked out by a qualified physician. The doctor can determine what, if anything is actually wrong and recommend treatment. If the doctor’s diagnosis is dementia further legal steps to provide adequate legal protections are necessary.

It is important to have the doctor spell out, as clearly as possible; exactly what your spouse is capable of doing from a decision-making standpoint when the diagnosis is made. For example, can he or she identify and understand the extent of the property he or she owns and who his or her heirs are? Is he or she capable of understanding the nature of a transaction sufficient to enter into a contract? Can he or she identify those whom she trusts enough to manage his or her affairs in order to authorize them to do so?

If the answer to any of the above questions is “yes” then it is imperative to consult an elder and estate planning attorney in order to put your spouse’s legal affairs in order with documents such as Powers of Attorney for financial and medical affairs, wills, trusts, and any other documents which apply to her particular circumstances. By doing this, we can keep your life affairs private and reduce legal fees and court costs.

If the answer to the any of those questions is “no” it may be necessary to go into probate court and petition for a Guardianship and Conservatorship in order to take over management of your spouse’s personal and financial affairs.  This is an expensive, public process that requires ongoing court supervision. This scenario will often occur once a dementia patient progresses to later stages and no longer has the capacity to enter into legal documents that would eliminate the need for a guardianship or conservatorship. This is another reason for consulting a physician and an elder and estate planning attorney as early as possible. It is strongly recommended to have legal documents in place that provide others with authority to act on one’s behalf well before dementia or any other disabling condition rears its ugly head.



Tech Support Scam

A recent article has appeared in the Arizona Republic discussing a substantial increase in Tech Support Fraud across the U.S. according to the FBI. The article stated that losses from this fraud in Arizona in just ½ of 2018 are 263% of losses in all of 2017. While this type of fraud can victimize anyone, it has been increasingly targeted at citizens over the age of 60.

The scams start with an unsolicited phone call, email or computer-screen pop-up notification from someone purporting to be a tech-support specialist who has identified a virus infecting the victim’s computer. They offer to fix the problem – which very likely doesn’t exist – FOR A FEE.

When a victim responds to a call, email or clicks on a pop-up, criminals will offer to help fix the victim’s technical issues, leading them to request remote access to the victim’s device. At that point the victim will have already paid them money.

NOTE: It is this writer’s experience that these scams are presented suddenly, while a person is working on their computer, and prevents the work from continuing until you call a number in a pop-up to get the problem “fixed.”  One way to combat this problem is to press the ctrl key, then press the alt key while still holding the ctrl key down, and pressing the Delete key, while still holding the ctrl and alt keys down. This will interrupt the program and you can activate a program called  “Task Manager”  by clicking it on a window that comes up.  You can then select the web browser you are using (Chrome, explorer, etc.)  to eliminate the problem. At that point you should run any anti-spyware and anti-virus program you have and scan for problems to see if there is really anything going on and to clean up your computer.

The FBI states, anyone who is online is vulnerable to this scam, perpetrated by well-organized criminal organizations around the world looking to victimize people. Fraudulent tech support companies often will advertise their services online alongside legitimate companies, seeking to trick a victim.

With this access, scam artists can download malware to the victim’s computer, launch phishing attacks against the victim’s contacts and access the victim’s personal information such as tax returns or health records.

Criminals initiate contact with the victim and convince them to allow remote access. The FBI warns that access should never be granted to an unverified company.

According to the FBI a specific form of the fraud known as the “Fake Refund” is also becoming increasingly common. This scheme involves an offer to the victim for a refund for previous support services. The scam artist will then pretend to refund too much money to the victim’s account and ask the victim to return the difference. This kind of “refund and return” process can happen multiple times, causing the victim to potentially lose thousands of dollars.


Caring For Family Members Who Become Incapacitated

Q. If my loved one becomes incapacitated can I arrange for their care and manage their financial affairs?
A. There is no inherent right to act for another person who is incapacitated based on a relation to them, except for a parent/child relationship. Express legal authority is required to do so. This applies to anyone age 18 and over.
Q. How does one obtain express legal authority to act for another?
A. It depends on whether or not authority was given to another to act for the incapacitated person before they became incapacitated.
No Authority Prior to Incapacity – Petitions for guardianship and conservatorship must be filed with the county probate court. A hearing is held to determine incapacity based on evidence presented and the petitioner or another person is named Guardian, Conservator or both. This proceeding is public and the Guardian/Conservator is under continuous court supervision, having a duty to make reports and perform other acts. These arrangements are expensive, time consuming, and often continue for a considerable period of time.
Authority Prior to Incapacity – The Guardianship/Conservatorship route can be avoided by using private Durable Powers of Attorney and designating a Patient Advocate. A Power of Attorney is a document signed by a person that authorized another to act on their behalf. It is “Durable” if it expressly continues even when the person issuing the power becomes incapacitated. Durable Powers of attorney are issued for both financial affairs and healthcare decision-making. Michigan law authorizes a Patient Advocate to act for an incapacitated person regarding healthcare and end-of-life decision-making. Durable Powers of Attorney can only be signed by a person who can make informed decisions regarding the matters that the document addresses. Significant time, privacy and expense can be saved by having these documents prepared and signed prior to becoming incapacitated. These documents are inexpensive compared to court proceedings.
Q. Can I add a person to my bank account so that they can write checks, pay my bills, and take care of ordinary, regular financial affairs on my behalf?
A. Yes. However, once you add an owner on an account they can withdraw the balance and use the money for their own purposes. A Durable Power of Attorney can allow another person to handle these functions and obligates them to act strictly in the best interests of the account holder. While some persons add loved ones as account owners to facilitate inheriting the money without going through probate, there are other ways to avoid probate without naming an additional owner.

Welcome to Arizona Mobile Legal Services

Michael G. Kelly Kelly Legal Solutions PLCMike and Mary Kelly of Arizona Mobile Legal Services would like to welcome you to their new website. Please take the time to browse their practice areas of Elder Care, Veteran’s Benefits, Estate Planning, and Business Law.

Arizona Mobile Legal Services provides affordable and professional service to their clients. We come to you whether it is to your home, hospital, or business.

They handle many areas of the law that focus on senior citizens such as Medicare Planning, Long Term Care Planning, Veteran’s Benefits, and Medicaid Planning. In addition they offer Estate Planning and Business Law

They are unique from many large law firms: your work is handled completely by the attorney you put your trust in. They are fortunate to have an elder-care advocate that is also a legal assistant and registered pharmacist to assist with their Elder Care practice.

Arizona Mobile Legal Services  offer convenient night and weekend appointments. Please give them a call at (623) 628-1110 to schedule your appointment. You can also email them for more information.

Mary Kelly Kelly Legal Solutions PLC