Protecting Your Parents’ Finances

Now is the time to get a handle on Mom and Dad's money matters. It could make the difference between a comfortable retirement or tarnished golden years.

yes, where are the originals and the copies located?

  • Where are your financial records stored?
  • Have you ever made a budget?
  • What are your monthly expenses?
  • How can I go about paying your routine bills, if necessary?
  • Have you tried to project your financial situation over the next 20 years, factoring the impact of inflation?
  • Do you have any ancillary medical insurance?
  • Who are your doctors?
  • What medications do you take?
  • Have you thought about how you will handle the costs of an extended illness?
  • Who are your advisors?
  • What is your annual income?
  • What are the sources of your income?
  • Have you prepared a net worth statement?
  • Have you done any estate planning? If yes, have you used any documents, such as trusts, that I should be aware of?
  • If the house gets too big, what do you want to do?
  • Have you written a letter of last instruction?
  • When was the last time (or the first time) you looked at your asset allocation?
  • Do you have any life insurance? If yes, are the beneficiary designations up-to-date?
  • Have you reviewed your property insurance limits within the past three years?
  • It’s important that you receive complete answers to these questions. The next step is knowing the organizations and Websites where you can get help in tackling financial and medical issues for aging family members. To find local resources for aging relatives, contact the Eldercare Locator, a nationwide directory service, at 800-677-1116. The service points you to information about meals, home-care transportation, housing alternatives, home repair, recreation, social activities, and legal and other community-based services. The Eldercare Locator is a public service of the Administration on Aging of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and is administered by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging and the National Association of State Units on Aging.

    To ask for a Personal Earnings and Benefit Estimate Statement, call 800-772-1213 or visit www.ssa.gov. This report from the Social Security Administration will provide your parents with their earnings history along with estimates of retirement, disability and survivor’s benefits.

    If your parents receive a Social Security check each month, you can visit a local SSA office and ask to be made a representative payee. The SSA will investigate and, if you pass, the agency will appoint you to the job. You can then set up automatic payments to take care of your parents’ recurring bills.

    Other organizations that are valuable resources: AARP, the Washington, D.C.-based senior citizens advocacy group (800-424-3410; www.aarp.org), offers various publications on elderly issues; the Health Care Financing Administration (www.hcfa.gov) publishes the brochure Your Medicare Handbook; the Medicare Website (www.medicare.gov) offers the booklet Medicare and You; and the Health Insurance Association of America (www.hiaa.org) can make available the Guide to Long-Term Care. To find out items to include on a checklist, log on to www.checklistoflife.com.

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