Coming face to face with managing the finances of a parent can be daunting. With people living longer and often apart from their immediate family, an increasing number of children are being forced to confront their parents’ finances when they have little knowledge of what they are getting into. A recent article in The Wall Street Journal (“The Difficult, Delicate Untangling of Our Parents’ Financial Lives”) chronicles one family’s struggle with managing the long term disability of elderly parents. It also offers some helpful tips – particularly when your parents are children of the Great Depression.
- Before you do anything else, figure out what you’re doing. It is not uncommon for those who experienced the Great Depression to have multiple accounts at different banks and account statements going back decades. Before diving in a scattershot fashion, first try to identify what is current by using current statements and tax records.
- Repeat after me: POA, POA, POA. As discussed in previous blogs, a durable power of attorney is essential. Without it, you will run into roadblocks at every turn. Expect to be asked over and over again to fax, mail or provide a copy of it.
- It helps to have a team, both family and outsiders. The more family members who can contribute, the less the burden on any one individual. Also, professional assistance from an elder law attorney, CPA, financial advisor, geriaritic consultant, etc., can be very helpful particularly when facing a long term disability.
- In an online world, be ready to be thrown back to the 1970s. When dealing with a generation that typically does not own or use a computer, be ready to put on your detective hat. You may have to sort through reams of account statements to try to determine what is an active account.
- Expect the unexpected. Unknown accounts, stock, bonds, life insurance can suddenly appear without warning. Also, unexpected charges for unknown goods or services can show up with no corresponding letter or statement. The best advice is to be patient, thorough and keep a sense of humor (for your own sanity).
- Have mercy on your own children. Having experienced firsthand these challenges, do not leave the same legacy for your children. Many people wait until a crisis occurs before they address these issues. Do not make this mistake. See an elder law attorney today.