Living through a pandemic has put a difficult topic at the forefront for many of us: Making sure those we love are having their needs met, both now and in the future. This includes not only elderly parents, but other (typically single) aging relatives or close friends.
The questions below will get you started on deeper conversations with the beloved elderly people in your life.
1. Contacts/Support System:
Who do I need to contact if something happens to you?
Are there friends or church members to whom you would like me to reach out?
Who are the people in whom you place great trust?
Have you named someone as a trusted contact with the bank or other financial institutions?
2. Service Issues:
Do you have any issues with your bank, tax preparer, attorney or anyone else I should know about?
If a loved one expresses concern about a service provider, you may be able to help them replace the poor provider with a person or an organization that can meet their needs. A simple example is a bank that no longer sends paper statements and this elderly person has difficulty using a computer. Another example may be a lawn service the person may not like, but simply does not know how to find a better option.
3. Routine Bill Payment:
How and when do you pay your bills?
Are any of your bills set up to be paid automatically?
In the case of married couples, if one person has all of the passwords and access information, it may be a good idea to start training the other spouse on how to handle the monthly bills and non-monthly obligations (such as property taxes and insurance). For an elderly single person, it could be a more involved discussion, especially if you observe unopened mail or late notices.
4. Estate Plan and Health Care Directives:
Do you have formal documents in place for health care decisions and your overall estate plan?
Where are your documents located?
Where is the original copy of your will with your original signature located?
I have noticed most elderly people have thought through some of the more difficult areas, such as nursing home options, level of care desired and even how they want to be buried. An example that always makes me chuckle is a woman I knew who would periodically announce to her friends, “I want to be cremated because at least once in my life I want a smoking hot body!” While this is a humorous example, it shows that she had already thought things through and had a general plan in place.
For those we love, the more we can get the specifics out of their heads and help put a solid plan in place, the smoother things will be in the end. One of the best ways to approach this is to share what your plans are for your own situation, and then ask what they might have in place. Proper timing and a sense of humor helps, and affirming that you want to be able to assist if needed.
Kristina Bolhouse CPA/PFS, CFP, is the owner and shareholder of The Arkansas Financial Group Inc. She combines her CPA experience with her current role as a financial planner and investment advisor, specifically in regard to money management, fraud, estate planning and tax planning.