January is a great time to show your support for elderly parents by helping them get their affairs in order for the new year and beyond. A relaxed and fun family gathering can be a good opportunity to broach the more sensitive topics that are harder to do by phone or email. By partnering with your parents, you will be prepared for any eventuality and enjoy the added benefit of getting your own family affairs organized. Here are some of the key points you will want to cover:
- Do you know where all their important personal and financial documents are located? If not, take time to sit down with them and fill out something like this Personal Document Locator from FlexScore. Once it is completed, a copy should be given to a trusted family member and/or their attorney or executor.
- Do you have the contact information for their attorney, tax accountant, or financial advisor easily available to you?
- If they use passwords to log into their accounts online, does a trusted family member have access to them or know where to find them if needed? Here’s a great old school way to keep their passwords in one place.
- If they have a safe deposit box, is there a trusted person who has authorization to get into it, if necessary? This requires a trip to the bank to fill out an authorized signature card and might be a good thing to do while visiting.
- Have they filled out a durable power of attorney or an advance health care directive? If so, do you have copies of them? For an easy-to-use advance directive legal document which covers medical, spiritual, emotional, and personal end-of-life needs and is written in everyday language, go to Five Wishes. Make sure that their primary care physician also has a copy, if possible.
- Do you have an emergency response system in place if they live alone? There are many different options available these days, so here’s a good review of the top ones of 2019.
- Do you have the phone number of nearby neighbors who can check in on them in the event of a weather emergency?
- If they are planning on downsizing in the next year, have they made a decision on what items in their home would be given to family members if there is no room for them in the new residence?
- Are they up to date on paying bills and managing daily finances, or could they use some professional help in this area? Here is a great article from Kiplinger that discusses how to provide financial help to aging parents.
Listening to your parents’ wishes and helping them organize their affairs now can relieve stress about the unknown and provide peace of mind about the future—a gift which benefits the whole family.