Taking control of your parents’ finances can be a difficult matter for the entire family. It can be tough for a person to admit that they need help with their finances, especially when the signs are clear. If they are not keeping up with bill payment, are confused about their statements, or are making poor financial decisions, then it is time to intervene. In any event, you should be gentle when bringing up this topic.
Here are some important tips for helping your elderly parents with their finances. This checklist can help create a productive conversation & a safety net around the finances of elderly parents. Also important is to understand what areas to focus on, which can help ease this difficult situation.
1. Process Your Feelings Before Talking to Your Parent
Talking to your parents about their financial situation and healthcare wishes can be emotionally draining for everyone involved. Before you discuss their financial matters, process your feelings. How do you feel? Do you feel anxious? Do you feel uncomfortable? Are you upset? Know that the emotion you’re feeling is a healthy response. By addressing those feelings to yourself, you’re more likely to remain calm during that conversation.
2. Trust Your Parent’s Financial Decisions
If your parent is still able to manage their daily finances, then respect their financial decisions. Offer help when needed instead of taking over completely. They’ll appreciate your help more when you take a step back. They’re also more likely to accept help since they know you won’t take their control away.
If your parent suffers from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, then you should gain control over their finances. Regardless of their cognitive state, allowing them feel as if they still have some control, even if they’re having trouble managing their money. Working with your parents can ensure that you are on the same page. They’ll better understand you’re looking out for their best interests.
3. Get Their Documents in Order
In the event of an emergency, you’ll need immediate access to your parents’ documents. This can assure the safety and security of their private documents if they’re not able to manage their financial situation themselves. They may wonder why you need access to these documents, so inform them that you’ll just use them in emergency situations. You’ll need access to bank and brokerage statements, home mortgage or reverse mortgage, insurance policies, pension records, safe deposit boxes, Social Security payments, wills and powers of attorney.
4. Get Access to Their Financial Accounts
You’ll have to set aside time to plan this in advance since it takes a lot of time and paperwork. Banks and financial institutions have rules in place about who has access to a bank account, and most of them require a copy of a Power of Attorney. In order to write checks for your parents or withdraw money from their account, you should become a joint account owner.
5. Keep Financial Conversations Brief
If your parents have agreed to a financial discussion, keep the conversation to a minimum of 30 minutes. Resist the urge to overload them with questions. One or two questions per topic should be the max. Allow your parents time to digest what you said so they can respond accordingly. This allows everyone to focus on one subject at a time. Plus, it keeps everyone calm, level-headed, and focused.
6. Allow Your Parent Control Whenever Possible
Aging can cause a loved one to lose control of their mental or physical health. Older parents are aware that they’ll need more help and support over time and some are not ready for this reality. When you’re having a financial conversation with your parents, offer to help whenever necessary. You’re showing them that you’re there to help them when they feel the need. When the time does come, they’ll be at ease knowing you’re managing their finances accordingly.
7. Prepare for Their Future
If your parents don’t have an estate or will prepare, then now is the time to book an appointment with a lawyer and get the process started. These documents will protect their physical and financial assets from probate and document their wishes. This is also a good time to create other legal documents prepared such as a living will and Power of Attorney. These documents will be your guide to their financial & medical wishes, especially during a health crisis.