Aging Parents and Managing Money from Afar

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by Joy Loverde

A friend of mine assumed that his Mom was on top of things when it came to paying her bills. He found out the hard way that not only was she not paying her bills; she had given her life savings to a scam artist.

If you’ve got aging parents and they live far away from you, what’s the plan for helping them keep their checkbooks balanced and bills paid on time? What, you say? I have to add one more responsibility to my already overloaded caregiver life?

Truth is, many elderly people manage their own personal bookkeeping tasks just fine on their own. On the other hand, if this is not the case for your aging parents, and you are aware that they are having difficulty managing their personal monetary affairs because of limited vision, arthritis or other physical and cognitive conditions that limit their ability to write and understand – or they are forgetting to perform financial obligations altogether, will you be able to step in and help if you live miles apart?

If you decide to take on this responsibility, and your parents are open to the idea of your helping them out,  there are legal considerations that must be secured ahead of time when assuming the financial chores of another.

Before anything else, review the Legal Matters chapter in The Complete Eldercare Planner. Importantly, discuss any potential liability and risks with an attorney (preferably an elder law attorney) before you sign papers that put you in the position of joint ownership with your parents and documents related to bank accounts, real estate, and powers of attorney.

Other bookkeeping options to consider including hiring a professional money manager, a mail organizer, bank trust officer, attorney, and/or an accountant.  Licensed and bonded professionals for hire are available to plan budgets, pay bills, file insurance claims, prepare tax documents, day-to-day banking, negotiate with creditors, and sort out questionable charges in your elder’s behalf.

Compare fees, check references, verify agencies, and ensure that individuals are bonded before hiring.

Here is a resource to check out: American Association of Daily Money Managers. Website: www.aadmm.com

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