No matter how old you are, you're still your parents' child. Someday, however, they may need to rely on you for help when it comes to their finances. With an aging population, loved ones must grapple with how to help their elderly parents manage their finances. Regardless of whether you and your parents have always talked freely about money or never discussed the subject, there are several considerations you may want to address with them as they approach their later years.
A recent article in The (Manchester, NH) Union-Leader, titled “Helping parents navigate their finances as they get older,” recommends a proactive approach as the best way to broach this delicate subject. Starting the conversation can be difficult for some, but waiting can cause even more headaches. For example, there are an increasing number of scams targeting our seniors. You want to be ahead of the curve to protect their nest egg and your time.
Take an inventory of their finances to get a baseline understanding of their financial situation, including a list of brokerage and bank accounts, insurance policies, and titles to their home and autos. See whether they are paying their bills on time to help you determine the extent of your day-to-day involvement in the management of their affairs. Obtain copies or know where they keep important documents like their Social Security cards and birth certificates. Your parents should give you the contact information for their CPA, financial advisors, and estate planning attorney.
The original article suggests that you simplify wherever possible, like using online bill paying. If your parents are not comfortable with a computer, ask a trusted family member to assist. The goal is to streamline and to provide some monitoring of their accounts for suspicious activity.
Check into your parents’ estate planning. This should include, at a minimum, a will, financial durable powers of attorney, health care durable powers of attorney, and a living will. If they don't have these documents in place, the probate court will make the important decisions, which can be costly and time-consuming. An estate planning attorney can help draft the appropriate documents and review their existing documents. In addition, the beneficiaries designated on your parents’ life insurance policies, IRAs, qualified accounts, and pensions should be coordinated with their estate planning documents and overall intentions.
This article is a nice starting point to help your parents. There are many family dynamics at play with these conversations, so beginning earlier will help everyone; delaying these conversations can cause more anxiety and headaches. Talk with an experienced estate planning attorney and make sure you’re totally prepared.
Reference: The (Manchester, NH) Union-Leader (February 14, 2015) “Helping parents navigate their finances as they get older”