By John R. Bullis
It is difficult to ask for help. Sometimes the parents need to ask their children for assistance in handling financial matters. One of the most important things is for the parents to do is the Power of Attorney for Financial Matters. This can authorize the child (or children) to pay bills and deal with other money matters. We urge that Power of Attorney form be done by the family legal advisor or other lawyer to be sure it complies with the state law and is properly signed and witnessed. Of course it is best if the parents ask for help. That way the child doesn’t feel they are intruding into parents affairs.
Maybe a few examples of items to consider is in order. If there are several financial accounts, consider consolidating into just two or three accounts. That will reduce the mail and make it easier for parents and child to understand what resources exist and are available. Perhaps getting the child registered with the bank as an “authorized signature” is in order. That means the child could write and sign checks to pay bills from the parents account(s), but the child is not an owner. The parents still own the accounts.
All possible actions have the risk of creating problems. If the child is authorized to sign checks on the parents account, there is the risk that authority will be misused. There have been instances when the child decided to pay the child’s bills, without authorization from the parents.
Sometimes just setting up organized files is one of the first things to be done. Then the paid bills can be marked with the date paid, check number and filed in a “paid bills” file for that vendor or supplier. That can help keep track of payments of property taxes, utility bills and other items. Doing a list of all assets is also a good idea. The parents need to be comforted and aware of the various accounts that are available for their care. Sometimes the parent has a stock broker account but all of the dividends are reinvested instead of being paid to the parents. The parents sometimes don’t understand the change to get the dividends put into their checking account is easy to do. Funeral expenses have been paid in advance information needs to be handy and remembered. Getting verification of the various beneficiary designations for life insurance, annuities and retirement accounts is also important. If the original or current beneficiary designations can’t be found, just contact the life insurance company or retirement account custodian. They will send a form that shows the current beneficiary designations and a form to consider revising the designations if that is desired.
Certainly a family meeting to discuss the matters is important to do before doing changes. Did you hear “Why is there always so much month left at the end of the money”?