Probably one of the most difficult tasks that adult children with elderly parents face is when and how to step in to help a failing parent with their finances. Children who notice signs of financial inattention – bills unpaid, papers piling up, utilities cut off – can use these tips to offer assistance:
Offer to help pay bills. Offer to sit with a parent once a month to take care of the bill paying. This allows them to still maintain control of their accounts while ensuring all the bills are handled.
Get online access. By getting online access to a parent’s bank accounts, children can track expenditures and know right away if unusual transfers or payments are being made and can question those.
Sort accounts. See if you can leave your parent in charge of the checking account while you take control of the investment accounts, so smaller amounts are at risk.
Medicare supplemental coverage. If your parents are on Medicare, you should review with them their supplemental coverage, including gap coverage (if they have chosen this option) and their prescription drug plan. Many seniors are uncomfortable navigating the Internet for choices, but the Medicare website (www.medicare.gov) has a useful plan finder you can use to navigate the many choices.
Retirement account distributions. If your parents have IRAs and other qualified retirement accounts that require them to take a minimum distribution once they reach the age of 70 ½, they must do so each year by Dec. 31 or face up to a 50 percent penalty. You can contact the plan administrators to set up an automatic deduction every year to avoid this problem.
Estate planning. Your parents should have an up-to-date will, powers of attorney and other estate planning documents in place already. If they do not, it would be wise to schedule an appointment for you and them with a Florida estate planning attorney, many of who offer a free initial consultation to help you ascertain what is needed.
At The Estate, Trust and Elder Law Firm, P.L. we help our Treasure Coast clients develop and implement comprehensive estate planning strategies personally tailored to their unique situation, needs, and goals. Contact us for your initial consultation at one of our conveniently located offices in Fort Pierce, Stuart, Port St. Lucie, Vero Beach, and Okeechobee.