Helping Elders with Their Finances

As we get older, things that seemed so simple, almost trivial, require a bit more concentration and effort. It happens to everyone who is blessed with a long life.

For the most part, people do not like to divulge everything about their financial situation, such as assets, income, expenses, and the extent of their liabilities. But, as in most every case, an open and honest conversation is necessary.

If your older loved ones have not already done so, you should help them assemble a list of all their assets such as bank accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts, trusts, foreign investments or accounts, etc. Along with the name of the institutions where the assets are held, you should also write down the type of accounts, the address, account numbers, how the accounts are titled, the contact person and their telephone number, and online user names and passwords, if they have them.

In addition to assets, it is important to make a list of all sources of income. Sometimes, retirement or Social Security checks can be misplaced, and those dividend checks may not even look like checks, which may lead to misplaced or discarded checks. The best thing to do in this situation is to see if the retirement accounts, investment accounts, etc. offer direct deposit. In Pennsylvania, you should check for unclaimed property at www.Patreasury.gov/claim.

Another VERY important thing to make a list of is recurring expenses and liabilities. Make a list of their monthly living expenses, as well as loan or credit card liabilities, to include account numbers, addresses to mail payments, telephone numbers of the companies, who the checks are payable to, an approximate payment ranges, etc. This can include mortgages, utilities, insurances, car payments, condo fees, credit card payments, and so on. If they don't have a mortgage, don't forget about the real estate taxes. Check with their financial institution or the companies to see if they offer some type of automatic payments.

Finally, although it doesn't seem to have anything to do with finances, check to see if your loved ones have a will, power of attorney, living will, and health care proxy. All of these documents are very important, and it is even more important to know where the originals are in the event that the documents need to be executed. If they do not have these documents, or are not sure, you should contact their attorney to find out and have them created if they don't already have them. As a side note, the originals should not be kept in a safe deposit box at their financial institution.

The time to have a discussion with your loved ones is before they can no longer assist in making the lists or make legal decisions before tragedy occurs. It is easier to update the lists periodically than it is to try to create them at a later date.