Mother and son talking over paperworkThere comes a time when adult children realize that their parents may need their help. It starts with obvious things like taking them to doctor’s visits and pharmacies or helping them get supplies they need such as groceries, medications, walkers and even incontinence supplies. But something that may remain almost hidden is when they start needing help with their finances. It’s best to be proactive and not wait for an emergency. There are many ways to get involved early on.

How to Help Your Aging Relatives with Proactive Steps

One way to get started is by helping them pay their bills and encouraging them to add your name to their checking account and safety deposit box. It is also a good idea to get copied on financial statements. If they are not comfortable with that much help at least encourage them to make a document that would help you find their important financial papers and how to contact their financial professionals in case of an emergency. And now is the time to encourage them to set up important documents such as a power of attorney, a health care directive and a will or trust. It’s not an easy thing to bring up but it is very important and once you get over the hump of starting the conversation it will most likely get easier as you go.

Monitor Your Parent's Previous or Current Investments

If your parents already have a financial planner offer to meet with them. If they don’t have one offer to help find one and set up an appointment. Another thing to consider is checking into their investments. They may need to be updated if your parents have not recently done so.

How to Help Your Aging Relative After Illness or Decreased Mental Capacity

If it’s too late to be proactive there are still ways to help out after a medical emergency. Here is a list of things you can do:

1. Find all of their financial documents – if you think they had any financial professionals do all you can to find them.

2. Find all their bills and get them paid – if possible get bills paid to avoid late fees and possible service cancellations.

3. Locate power of attorney or living trust documents or will – if they had made you the power of attorney you will need the papers to show banks and similar institutions before you can start paying bills, etc. Make sure you keep originals and don’t mail them off or leave them with anyone. If the papers are in your parent’s safety deposit box and you are not listed on the box you may have a bit of a problem since you need the paperwork to gain access to the box. If this happens you can get a new power of attorney form and if your parent is still competent to get them to sign it. Otherwise, you will have to get a court order.

4. Open safety deposit boxes with a witness or record yourself opening it – this may avoid later hassles with siblings or anyone else who has an interest.

5. Document everything you do. It may be invaluable later on.

6. Become your parent’s guardian – If there is no power of attorney or living trust and your parent is incapable of handling their own finances you can go to court to become a guardian. You will need two physicians to confirm and it’s a good idea to get a lawyer.

 As you can see, a proactive approach can save a lot of time and money. Getting the power of attorney paperwork done is especially important since it can save you a lot of hassle. It may be a difficult conversation to start but after you get the process started everyone involved will most likely feel better off.