5 Steps for Taking Responsibility for a Parent’s Finances

Board care for elderly can be expensive, help them manage their finances.

Photo used under Creative Commons from Images_of_Money.

As parents become older, there comes a point where you realize that you need to step in and help them with their finances. The red flag may be a bounced check or noticing that some bills are past due, or you could discover much more serious problems like the fact that mom or dad has been taken in by a telemarketing scammer. The steps below are your roadmap to getting your loved one back on track.

1. Know Your Parent’s Finances
The first thing every adult child needs to know is the condition of your parent’s finances. This means that you need to know what debts they have (credit cards, loans, mortgages, etc…), as well as what their living expenses are. Familiarize yourself with utilities, credit cards, and any bills they have and make sure you start paying them right away. You also need to know if there are any safe deposit boxes, and if you parents already have a financial advisor. It may be beneficial to take a look at your parent’s tax returns to get an idea of their financial situation.

2. Learn About Your Parent’s Income and Insurance Situation
Find out what sources of income your parent has. Find out of if your parent is receiving income from social security, what Medicare options they’ve chosen, and whether they receive Medicaid. Also find out if they have purchased long-term care insurance or other forms of insurance to make sure any premiums are kept up to date and policies are still in order.

3. Establish Who Has Legal Authority Over Your Parent’s Finances
When a parent becomes unable to care for their finances, it is especially important for adult children to know who has legal authority to manage the estate. Find out if your parents have already established legal guardianship with a relative, financial advisor, or with an executor. Pre-planning in this area can be especially important as it‘s more difficult to establish power of attorney if your parent develops dementia or Alzheimer’s. If you parents haven’t established a legal guardian before they become incapacitated, you’ll need to seek guardianship through the court system. A judge must agree that your parent is not legally competent to handle their own finances and that you are, which may take time.

4. Contact a Financial Advisor
A financial advisor or accountant can help you not only sort out your parent’s current finances, but also help you plan for the future. Depending on how you parent’s have invested, there may be other ways to maximize their assets to help finance their transition to assisted living. A financial advisor can help you navigate the options and ensure the best possible course for your parent’s financial future.

5. Get Everything in Writing
In order to safeguard both your parent’s and your own financial future, it’s best to make sure you have written documentation of everything related to their finances. Make sure you have legal authorization to act on their behalf. Any access to funds should be documented and any decisions with a financial advisor should be copied into a written document so there is a paper trail to help protect you and your parent legally. Having written records will also help if conflict or concern arises among siblings or other relatives.

Watching a parent age can be a difficult process emotionally for adult children, but it doesn’t have to be difficult financially. By following these steps, adult children can help ease the transition for their parents, ensuring a brighter and more secure financial future.