The New Year is a perfect opportunity to look back, to look forward and to make changes. Let me share with you three strategies that I resolved to implement relative to handling my aging parents’ finances. These actions removed a lot of the stress and tension from our visits, and allowed me to more fully enjoy my time with them.
- ORGANIZE THE RECORDS. Do an inventory and set up a filing system if there is none. Go through your parents’ files (with their permission, of course); separate documents into major categories (files and folders) such as LEGAL, HEALTH, FINANCE, HOME, INSURANCE. Create sub-categories, for example, under INSURANCE: Long Term Care; Life; Homeowners or Renters; Automobile. Ensure that any and all paperwork is properly filed.
- FILL IN THE GAPS. If there are missing documents, identify them now and start the process to search for or replace them. For example, if there are gaps in insurance coverage (e.g. if your parents qualify for Long Term Care insurance but don’t have it) put a plan in place to close those gaps. Check for things like Power of Attorney, Advanced Health Care Directives and other documents that are critical in the event of an emergency.
- SET UP A SYSTEM. Many critical documents should be reviewed or updated on a regular basis. Trusts should be reviewed every 3-5 years. Create an emergency contact list and share it with all family members. Set up reminders to keep in touch with those on the list and be sure to update their contact information on a regular basis. Create a system to keep your fingers on the pulse of your parents’ finances. Consider setting up online banking or using software such as Quicken or web based tracking tools like Mint.
Helping the aging adults in your life get their paperwork and finances in order is a gift to both you and them. You will have the peace of mind that comes with knowing that the administrative details are taken care of. More importantly, if there is an emergency, you’ll be able to quickly grab the important information and go with confidence.