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Grandparents and Bills


We have a tricky situation in our family that I could really use help with. Recently both my grandparents were hospitalized, and they fell behind on paying their bills. My mother asked me to set up online bill pay for them, and I have. They can now pay bills from anywhere.

They also have a dependent family member living with them. Unfortunately, this person does not work, cannot contribute and consistently asks for money. He has been pressing me for passwords to their accounts. I have refused to give that information, as my grandparents are using the online system just fine. How can I best help in this situation? I do not want my grandparents to be taken advantage of, as they have a hard time saying, "No." Their multiple mortgages are proof of this.


First of all, I commend you for having helped your grandparents with this issue. You have empowered them to better manage their finances.

It seems clear to me that they are being taken advantage of by your family member. I am concerned that this person may become more desperate over time. From my years of experience at Horizon, I have heard of cases where family members have stolen credit cards and/or threatened family members for money. My first suggestion is to simply be mindful of these possibilities. 

My next recommendation may surprise you, but I think you should suggest to your grandparents that you manage their money on an ongoing basis. It is wonderful that they can now pay bills online, but this does not change their generous tendencies. Your grandparents slid into this dysfunctional situation over time.  If they are making unwise financial decisions, this could jeopardize their future. Usually, it is one of the children that takes responsibility for managing the finances of an elderly parent. In this situation, your mother turned to you for support, so it is likely you are the most qualified in the family. If you can make the time and are comfortable paying the bills, offer up your services. You could be the difference between a secure future for your grandparents and a situation where they have nothing but debt.

In summary, I think you should step in and help as much as you are able. A little effort on your part could go a long way for your grandparents in securing their financial future. It may also be worth having a conversation with them about learning when to draw the line when it comes to financial assistance to family members.

I wish you the best.