Broker Check

Helping Your Parents with Money

February 14, 2014

As our parents get older we lend them a hand more and more often.  We pitch in with chores like yard work and preparing for holiday gatherings with little thought of it.  Eventually, your parents may need help with more serious matter like their finances.  The personal nature of this topic makes the subject taboo in many households.  You should know how to recognize signs that your parents may need help, how to broach the subject and what needs to be done.

Sometimes the signs are obvious.  Your parents may complain about getting confused while balancing their checkbook or gathering forms for the tax preparer and leave you a clear opening to offer help.  More often changes happen more slowly and the direct connection is missing.  If they are having difficulty making decisions or remembering basic things it may be time for help.

If you have the opportunity to offer help when they bring up the subject then take it.  If the subject is not often discussed then you can bring it up by discussing something about your finances.  This cracks the door open to see how they are handling things.  Remember to offer help and not just assume you are taking over.

Your parents may not be the only ones sensitive to the subject of their money.  Don’t forget to encourage the involvement of your siblings.  This will help everyone feel more comfortable with the decisions being made.

Talk with your parents about the planning they have done.  Do they have updated wills?  Have they set up a trust?  Have they set up a durable power of attorney documents?  Where are the documents kept?  Be sure you can get to them if you need to.  You should know where each account is held, and if there is a safety deposit box.  How do they pay their bills?  They may write checks for some bills, use online bill payment for others and have others automatically deducted.

You should also know the other side of their cash flow.  Where do they receive income from?  Do they have a combination of pensions, Social Security, Medicaid, Annuities, rental income, and other investments?  Do they work with a financial advisor, lawyer and/or CPA?  If something happens, do the advisors and custodians of their accounts have the power of attorney(s) on file?

There is a lot of information to learn and this is a delicate and complicated process.  Be gentle with your actions.  This process takes time and teamwork.  The experience of a professional financial advisor may be very helpful keeping emotions out of the decision making process.