It’s that time again Labour day has come and gone the kids are back in school meaning that summer has unofficially ended. We are back and will have some helpful insights for you to read over the next few months. All the best from Henley Financial and Wealth Management. www.henleyfinancial.ca
Over the last year, I have been dealing with my mother who has decided that she would like to see my father again. The problem is he died 30 years ago. Yes he left us at the age of 52, the loss was hard but at that time my mother had lots of friends to entertain and years later I started a family. So she always busy and felt needed. Up until a few years ago, my mother was needed as she helped with my children. That has all changed, the girls are now teenagers and don’t even want my help and her friends have passed or moved on so she has been left feeling as though she is no longer needed. A few years ago, I was telling everyone that she would outlive me. But things changed, life changed, she took her final trip, a trip she had asked me to go on when I was a teenager and of course I refused. It was at a time when I was involved in sports and could not leave my teammates behind. She has traveled extensively but this was her dream destination a month-long trip to China.
She has always been a good saver and lives minimally, as she gets older, you can see she is overwhelmed by the costs of things. Her generation is very concerned about finances it is the way they have come through life. Most people over 75 have filled out forms that are 20 pages in length, or do their own income taxes, they live on small incomes, there are Guaranteed Income Supplement forms to fill out, and in her case, a small pension my father left her.
As it turns out I have found to maintain their independence, older seniors like my mom need a lot of help with their finances—even if they have healthy savings. Home-care services need to be paid for, bill payments need to be set up, and investments need to be managed. It’s a balancing act and the process is time-consuming, but it needs to be done if you want your parents to age comfortably. Unfortunately, my mother is not aging comfortably as she is suffering from kidney failure and a poor heart. She would not go to the doctor when she was sick she did not think it was necessary… she felt she is no longer needed.
Handling elderly parents’ finances is made even tougher by the awkward role reversal. Aging parents are often reluctant to even share financial information with their children, let alone relinquish control. My mother is that in a nutshell. She continues to refuse help on any level. In many cases, you may have no choice but to pick a neutral person to oversee a parent’s finances.
That’s why it’s important to do some advance planning before your parents become incapable of managing their money themselves. Every family should have a plan to safeguard their elderly parents’ finances when the time comes.
If your parents are having trouble handling their finances, don’t expect them to come to you for help. If they’re like most parents, they don’t want to be a burden. So be on the lookout for subtle signs they may be having problems. Can’t remember if they paid a bill or think they did pay the bill. If they repeat things often, or forget conversations you recently had. I do that to on occasion I guess that comes with age but you will start to notice the signs.
Ideally, communication between parents and siblings should start well before a parent needs help. The best time is when parents are starting to talk seriously about retirement. It’s just an intellectual activity then. The longer you leave it, the harder it will become.
Understand that total trust doesn’t happen overnight, I have not always had a good relationship with my mother but as an only child there is not much choice. In many cases, it’s hard for siblings to work well together. One often feels another is taking advantage. The key to making it work is transparency on all fronts.
Have frequent family gatherings or communicate by email or phone constantly speak candidly about retirement and old age. It will happen it’s not a secret. You should also talk about what happened in the meeting that transpired with lawyers, accountants, and advisors. Then you will be able to understand the process in the future.
Find out where your parents keep their safety deposit box and important documents. Make a list of their bank accounts and investment accounts, insurance documents, wills and the names of their accountant, lawyer, and financial advisor.
Open a joint bank account with your parents, deposit their CPP and OAS checks into it, and take over all bill payments. You should also find out where your parents’ income comes from, including government and employer pensions as well as RRIF withdrawals and any income from their investment portfolio. Find out who their beneficiaries are, what their financial wishes are, and how they want funeral arrangements handled.
Get legal power
While both parents are alive, make sure all non-registered accounts are held jointly: otherwise the surviving parent will need a will and death certificate to access those accounts. Also, ensure your parents have an up-to-date will and estate plan. A loss of capacity either suddenly, such as through a stroke, or gradually as with Alzheimer’s, may mean they never have the opportunity to clarify their intentions.
That’s why it’s also key to know if your parents have in place a power of attorney (POA) for health care as well as for finances and property. A POA will often name a child as a substitute decision maker. That person can sign documents, start or defend a lawsuit, sell a property, make investments, and purchase things for the parent, the POA usually comes into effect as soon as it’s signed and witnessed, but a parent can put a clause in saying it doesn’t come into effect until they’re incapacitated.
More than one person can be named as a POA: that way no one can act opportunistically and without accountability. If you’re concerned about mismanagement of funds, make sure your parents include a clause in their POA document that requires the decision maker to submit periodic financial statements to your parents’ accountant, adviser or lawyer.
10 key questions to ask your aging parents
You can start by asking your parents these key questions to ensure your family is prepared for the road ahead.
- Where do you keep your important papers—wills, investment account statements, life insurance policies, and others?
- Do you have a current will? Where do you keep it and when was the last time you updated it?
- Have you prepared a power of attorney (POA) documents? A POA designates who will take care of your affairs if you are unable to do so because of illness or cognitive decline. Your parents can designate one person to handle health decisions and another for financial decisions, or they can designate one person for both roles.
- Do you have a safety deposit box? If so, at which bank, and where do you keep the key?
- Where are your bank accounts? If you are incapacitated, where would I find the PIN and account information?
- Do you have credit cards and if so, who are they with? Have you been paying the balance off every month?
- Do you have a financial adviser, lawyer or accountant, and what is their contact information?
- Do you have life insurance policies? Who is the contact agent?
- Do you have any debt and if so, with whom? How much do you owe?
- Does anyone owe you money and if so, who?
Hopefully, this will help you start that conversation. I know from experience that once they get sick they have no interest in sharing information.