Adult children are busy with their own families, work, and social life. Life is a blur and sometimes age sneaks up on everyone. All of a sudden you are 50 years old and, wow, Mom is 85. Mom seemed fine the last time you talked to her, but now small things are changing, and you are concerned.
Let’s talk about some signs that might indicate your parents need financial help:
— Stacks of unopened mail seem to be everywhere in the house.
— Utilities have been shut off for lack of payment.
— Mom starts to talk about the IRS calling her demanding payment on old tax bills.
— Mom can’t find all of the papers needed to prepare her tax returns for the current year.
— Bills have not been paid, or have been paid multiple times; late charges have been added, or checks are bouncing.
— The checkbook can’t be located, or Mom doesn’t remember how to pay bills.
— The car needs a smog check, and Mom thinks her car registration will be renewed by the same people.
— Mom starts talking about her new friend who visits every day and takes her to the store.
— Checks are written out to many charities that send her solicitations through the mail.
— You find forms from banks, life insurance, or annuities to change beneficiaries.
Parents do not want to admit that they cannot handle their finances, and they definitely don’t want to relinquish the control of their money.
If you see some of the clues from above, you might start slowly with your parents. Maybe you can write out the checks and then have your parents sign them. Once they get comfortable with that system, then maybe you can reconcile their bank accounts. You will need to be on their accounts as a signer to be able to pay their bills yourself. Electronic bill pay and automatic payment options can be used for recurring bills. Check also for debt such as credit card bills and personal loans.
Gathering information about all of their bank accounts, brokerage accounts, and investments now will be much easier while they are able to help. Also ask about the names and contact information for their doctor, attorney, CPA, or tax preparer. You may need to get in touch with them in the future.
Check to see if they have their legal documents in order, such as a will, trust, power of attorney, and health care directive. If they do, check that they are up to date and current. Make sure that all of the bank accounts are in the name of the trust, along with the real estate, investments, etc.
Helping your parents with their finances can be challenging, but it will help you and your parents have peace of mind that everything is taken care of. Treating them with dignity and respect will make the transition much easier.
Marcia L. Campbell has worked as a CPA for 25 years specializing in seniors, trusts, estates, court accountings and probate litigation support. Reach her at Marcia@MCampbellCPA.com