Facing a parent who’s battling dementia, ill health, or simply old age can be sad, frustrating and scary. After all, your parents have always taken care of YOU; now the roles are reversed. When it comes to their finances, the problem can be compounded because they may not have organized paperwork regarding their retirement fund or stock portfolio.
How can you best navigate the process of managing their accounts and keep it all straight?
- Find their paperwork. This is when you need to become a financial detective of sorts, finding and organizing all of their financial paperwork, says Bankrate. It’s great if your parents keep all their documents in one place. This will make it easier. If not, and they are well at the moment, ask them now where all their financial papers are. You’ll have to organize them yourself, but at least the task is easier when they’re coherent and able to answer your questions. It’s imperative you know where everything is in the event of an emergency.
- Pay the bills. They may be getting forgetful or they may just ignore the bills as they pile up. List out all their assets and expenses, then start paying the bills – more important ones first. It’s a good idea to get in touch with an elder care attorney to help you prioritize what to pay now and what can wait till later.
- Know who has POA. If you hold power of attorney, you’ll need to be armed with all the financial documents to show any banks you deal with now and in the future. You can add your name to your parents’ checking accounts to make it easier to write and cash checks on their behalf.
- Open safe deposit boxes. When opening up your parents’ safe deposit boxes at the bank, take a witness along and record the whole process. It’s not uncommon for siblings to accuse one another of stealing mom and dad’s valuables. Make sure your name is on the safe deposit account to begin with; otherwise, you won’t be able to access it. It’s even better if your parents keep their valuables and financial information in a fire-safe box at home instead.
- Document everything. If you cash out stocks, keep a record. If you write a check for the utility bill, file it away. Make copies of all checks your write, keep bank statements, save detailed receipts, and take note of all conversations with financial planners and stock brokers. Retain the services of a securities fraud attorney if you feel like your parents were unwittingly taken advantage of by their broker in their ill health.
Heed these tips to better handle your parents’ finances as they get older and possibly fall ill. Dementia can come on fast, as can heart attacks, car accidents and health problems. No one wants to think about money in times like that, so it’s best to get a handle on it now.