Some people are fortunate to stay physically and mentally sharp as a tack until their very last days, but many people just aren't that lucky. As they get older, they may become more forgetful, disorganized, and physically weak. All the details that go into managing their every day lives may start to get overwhelming, and it can be up to their adult children to step in and help -- whether the parent has asked for that help or not.
Introducing the idea to your own parents
For most people the idea that their parents - the people that helped them learn to care for themselves and their families - will need them to take control of personal health and financial accounts is not easy to think about. It's hard for the parents too, to relinquish control to their own child.
If possible, don't wait to talk about the idea of helping parents with finances and health care decisions until it is too late, and they are unable to participate in the discussion.
One way to keep topics such as finance on the table is to discuss some of your own plans.
Another is to jump in when there are related stories in the news.
Talking in a more generalized manner first, keeps many people from feeling defensive. Make as many plans together as possible with your parents' full consent and understanding. Obtaining a power of attorney is less complex than being forced into court to win guardianship.
Determining what you will need to know
If you do take over financial and/or health care decisions for your parents, there are many details about their lives you'll need to have at your disposal, such as:
- Where they hold their bank and other financial accounts
- Any plans they have made for their final resting place
- The location of safety deposit boxes
- Their sources of income and expenses
- Information on insurance policies
- Account numbers and passwords
- Any previous wills, trusts, or general estate planning that has already been done
Once you have information at your disposal, it is possible that you may discover some unwise decisions your parents have made. They might be building excess debt or may not have been living within their means. There may be accounts or services that need to be discontinued or started up.
You'll also need to keep an eye out for people who my try to take advantage of your parents. Make sure creditors and solicitors know that you are overseeing your parent's accounts.
Even when your parents' finances have been simple, it isn't unusual for adult children to uncover surprises. A qualified estate planning attorney can help you sort through the details or assist in obtaining a conservatorship so that taking over is as positive an experience as possible.