Addressing financial issues when a parent’s health declines
Polly is getting toward the end of her career but she plans to work a while longer because, although her job is very demanding at times, she loves her work. Her biggest concern right now is her mother. Polly’s dad was a vice-president and he had always managed the finances, up until his death a year ago. Towards the end of his life, his record-keeping efforts declined significantly, and he was never one to throw anything away.
When Polly last visited her mother, there seemed to be a lot of paperwork piling up. Her mother said she was doing ok but just hadn’t gotten around to going through some of it. Polly fears that she never will, and that Polly herself will end up being the one to deal with a big mess when her mother’s health eventually declines.
It is extremely common to see what had once been an organized system for staying on top of bills, to-do’s, taxes, and general recordkeeping to be set aside when the person responsible for the task becomes ill. They either don’t feel up to it, or just don’t have that ability anymore.
What Can You Do?
TALK. It’s best if parents and children can have open, honest conversations about their fears, their circumstances, and their wishes given different scenarios that the future may hold. This is not easy. It means confronting issues that most would rather ignore.
“70% of family money conversations occur only after a health crisis or other emergency.”-Home Instead Senior Care Network
Do you want to be having a conversation about finances or final wishes during a crisis? Probably not. As a starter, try bringing up (or making up) something you read or saw on TV. Or use the occasion of another’s passing to broach a difficult topic: “So, Mom, it looks like Jerry wanted to be cremated. Is that what you want?”, or, “Would you like some help with the backlog of mail that Dad left you?”. It is a much easier conversation if you can start it before a downward spiral begins.
GET HELP. If the situation is already happening, make the assumption that paperwork management is not going to miraculously change for the better. That sounds pretty negative, but it is quite common when someone is not doing well. Polly would be too overwhelmed to handle the backlog, much less step in and help with the weekly needs. If the adult children cannot help or are not appropriate helpers, the family may need to hire a professional. There is only so much you can have on your plate before it cracks.
A professional money manager can address emotional topics like wills, beneficiaries, and power of attorney without the emotional baggage that Polly or her mother would have. Our primary goal is to make sure the client is protected.
Who can help?
In most cases, a team approach works best. The better the coordination within the team, the better the outcome. Your team needs to be on top of any issue that pertains to your situation, whether it is financial, tax, legal, home services, healthcare, or real estate. In the next post, I’ll be discussing the Dream Team.