What It Means to Be a Financial Caregiver for Your Parents
Kristine Voorhees, CMFC, Financial Advisor with Waddell & Reed
If you are the adult child of aging parents, you may find yourself in the position of someday having to assist them with handling their finances. Whether that time is in the near future or sometime further down the road, there are some steps you can take now to make the process a bit easier.
Mom and Dad, can we talk?
Your first step should be to get a handle on your parents’ finances so you fully understand their current financial situation. The best time to do so is when your parents are relatively healthy and active. You can start by asking them some basic questions:
• What financial institutions hold their assets?
• Do they work with any financial, legal, or tax advisors?
• Do they need help paying monthly bills?
Make sure your parents have the necessary legal documents
In order to help your parents manage their finances in the future, you’ll need the legal authority to do so. This requires a durable power of attorney, which is a legal document that allows a named individual to manage all aspects of a person’s financial life if he or she becomes disabled or incompetent. A durable power of attorney will allow you to handle day-to-day finances for your parents, such as signing checks, paying bills, and making financial decisions for them.
In addition to a durable power of attorney, you’ll want to make sure that your parents have an advance health-care directive, also known as a health-care power of attorney or health-care proxy. An advance health-care directive will allow you to make medical decisions according to their wishes.
You’ll also want to find out if your parents have a will. If so, find out where it’s located and who is named as personal representative or executor. If the will was drafted a long time ago, your parents may want to review it to make sure their current wishes are represented. You should also ask if they made any dispositions or gifts of specific personal property.
Prepare a personal data record
Once you’ve opened the lines of communication, your next step is to prepare a personal data record that lists information you might need in the event that your parents become incapacitated or die. Here’s some information that should be included:
• Financial information
• Legal information
• Medical information
• Insurance information
• Advisor information
• Location of other important records
• Funeral and burial plans
Don’t be afraid to get support and ask for advice
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with the task of handling your parents’ finances, don’t be afraid to seek out support and advice. A variety of local and national organizations are designed to assist caregivers. If your parents’ needs are significant enough, you may want to consider hiring a geriatric care manager who can help you oversee your parents’ care and direct you to the right community resources. Finally, consider discussing the specifics of your situation with a professional, such as an estate planning attorney, accountant, and/or financial advisor.