In our third and final part of our How Do I Help My Aging Parents? series, we discuss steps you can take to help safeguard their financial information.
Financial recordkeeping can become confusing for anyone. What needs to be kept? Is this bill a duplicate? How do you tell if something is authentic or a scam? Here are some steps to take to help your parents (or yourself!) create order and protect financial information:
- Bills: Have bills mailed to the home address, not sent electronically where they are easily missed. If your parent has named a trusted person (see Part One of this series), they can help discuss and verify bills are being property paid and are not duplicates.
- Separate Accounts: Create a separate checking account for discretionary spending that the parent can control, with limited overdraft protection. Money for major bills and savings can be kept in a separate account that requires a dual signature on checks or ongoing auto-drafts.
- Account Alerts: Have account balances and transaction alerts sent to parents, the trusted person and/or family members to help reduce errors or fraud.
- Put POA on File: If possible, have a Power of Attorney on file with Social Security and Medicare so that the trusted person can discuss financial issues with these organizations. Common POA forms do not provide such authorization.
- Alert Insurance Companies: Alert insurance companies to send copies of statements and premium notices to the person, parents, and family members to ensure that premium payments don’t get missed.
- Request Copies: Request copies of your parents’ annual credit report and review credit and debt accounts. Close unnecessary lines of credit and put a freeze on the ability to add credit without written authorization by the parent or person to avoid impulsive changes.
- If you’d like to learn more about protecting yourself or someone you love from financial fraud or abuse, learn how to recognize signs of financial elder abuse here.
It is a great honor and responsibility to be named a trusted person over a parent’s personal, financial, and medical affairs. It’s also a privilege to support that person as a caregiver, and to help parents with daily tasks. Aging is expensive and inevitable, but handled well, it can be a process that builds love and trust in your family.
Note: Planning for your aging parents has many aspects to consider depending on your family’s unique circumstances. If you have questions or would like to discuss your options, please reach out to professionals who can guide you, including an estate attorney and your financial planner.