Before It's Too Late ~ Eric Gullotta

Eric Gullotta Eric S. Gullotta, JD, CPA, MS (Tax) specialies in estate planning and taxation law. His office is located at 232 West Napa Street, Suite A, in Sonoma. Contact him at 938.7234 or visit


Acting vs. reacting

Posted on February 11, 2018 by Eric Gullotta

My dad told me that it is better to act than to react.  Reaction is an action performed in response to a situation or event whereas an action is performed without said event or situation. No, this isn’t more folksy wisdom found while growing up on a farm (although there is a lot of that), it’s the segue into a difficult situation that more and more of us are dealing with.

What I’m talking about above is what happens when you, your family and the doctors agree that your loved one cannot care for themselves and have thus become (legally) incapacitated. This means your loved one cannot manage their own finances or resist undue influence. Everyone agrees that they can’t care for themselves anymore. What next?

How can we just take control of our loved ones’ finances? Aren’t we taking away their independence? I don’t want to be responsible for hurting their feelings? Can’t we just wait? This seems so harsh. Sometimes he/she is clear, maybe they are just forgetful? These are the comments I hear every day from family members very conflicted about taking over their loved ones finances. Some act. Some hesitate. Some do nothing at all.

We are asking people to act on the fact that their loved one is not able to care for themselves. The alternative is that they react to a situation that is a result of their inaction. Our misconception that we are hurting our loved ones is wrong – we are helping. We are not taking decision making away from them, we are saving them from making bad decisions. Decisions they would not have made if it weren’t for their disease or illness.

You see, when people lose their ability to resist undue influence, as is the case with most diseases of the mind – bad people come out of the woodwork and do, or at least try to do, bad things.

I have a wonderful client who has property and money. She was deemed incapacitated by her two doctors but her family was hesitant to take the steps to take away her control, citing many of the same concerns above. However, we helped them understand this was the right thing to do and was actually what their loved one wanted. All bank accounts and real estate were transferred out of her control and into the name of the person she chose as her successor. What happened a few weeks later? Two people from Florida that I’ve never heard of, claiming to be her “attorney”, had my client calling banks where the bad people could be heard in the background telling my client what to say. Of course, she was doing it without understanding what she was doing. However, much to these bad people’s chagrin, my client had no control over the money, the bank alerted the trustee, they called us and we called adult protective services. Folks, this is exactly how estate planning is supposed to work.

So you can act on information that your loved one is incapacitated or react to two people from Florida trying to steal their money. The choice is yours but make sure you decide, before it’s too late!

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