Whether taking control of the financial keys from your parents, or making things easier for your own children, everyone should review important health, financial and estate documents annually. Here are some steps you can take now before a health crisis occurs:
Recognize deteriorating health and/or mental ability.
Weakened health and diminished mental capacity are slow and gradual. To help you identify any changes in your parents’ health, be sure to contact them regularly. In-person visits, video chats, or telephone calls let you know how things are going. If distance is an issue, ask a friend or neighbor to check on your loved-one regularly. You can then follow-up with that friend or neighbor.
Make time for difficult conversations.
To avoid financial errors it is important to have an open conversation with your parent(s). You might try talking about how you met with an attorney and drafted a power of attorney for financial and health situations so your spouse (or sibling) could handle things if you are ever unable to do so. Then ask your parents what protections they already have in place.
Find the documents.
- Create a list of bank and investment accounts, credit cards, and insurance policies. Be sure to note where they are stored.
- Other useful information to have is usernames and passwords, names and contact information for doctors, accountants, attorneys, financial planners, and other professionals.
Establish a power of attorney.
A power of attorney authorizes one person to handle the financial affairs of another person. This includes everything from signing checks to selling their home. To be valid, your parent must be competent when signing the document. So be sure to establish a power of attorney before physical and/or mental health is significantly diminished.
Review the will.
Because circumstances change, it is important to review any wills. Make certain the will is up-to-date, accounts for any personal changes and/or life events, and that it reflects the current wishes of your parent(s).
Execute a health care directive or living will.
- This type of proxy allows a parent to give their child (or any other trusted person) authority to make life-and-death medical decision on their behalf when they aren’t able to do so.
- Your parent(s) should sign a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) release form allowing their children (or any other trusted person) access to medical documents.
Store important documents in a safe place.
Make certain at least one family member knows where important documents are kept. Whether that is in an attorney’s office, a bank safe-deposit box, or a fire-proof box in your parent(s) closet, someone should know where and how to retrieve important paperwork.