Taking Control of Your Parents' Finances

Four Strategies to Assure Their Safety and Your Peace of Mind

Monitoring your parent's finances.
As parents age they may need some help monitoring their finances. It's not about spying on them but working with them to assure they are protected and you have peace of mind. Getty Images

As elderly loved ones age family members often see signs of financial difficulty.  Some checks are written with errors.  Electric bills aren’t paid for months.  A scary run in with eldercare fraud comes out of nowhere. To help stabilize the situation adult children often step in.  In fact a Harris Poll reveals that 42% of adult children have assumed some or all aspects of the financial decison-making for their loved ones.

They take an active role in helping their parents with their finances by monitoring their parent's finances.

Many people understandably struggle with this role reversal.  Even though the adult children often have their own kids to care for, a demanding job in the peak of their career, and their own social lives, they find themselves forced into this new position.

In additional to the time commitment it’s a difficult emotional line to walk with your parents.  You need to balance safety with independence.  You need to insert yourself but not too much.  You need to help but ensure your parents’ keep their dignity.

In this post you will find the information you need to monitor your parents’ finances from a distance.  You will get the tools you need but avoid the trap of taking it all over. 

You will feel more in control and better able to protect them.  You will have a plan.  Above all you will know that your parents are safe.

How To Protect Your Parent’s Finances Better Than 99% Of Americans

Strategy #1: Get Access To Their Checking Accounts Online

You can complete this step in 5 minutes.  And you won’t even need to walk into a bank. 

All you need is a few key pieces of information.  Gather your parent’s social security or Tax ID number, a credit or debit card and a working email or phone number.

  Call the bank and get an online account started.

You don’t need a complex legal document or visit to the courthouse. 

You will have transparency into where your parents’ funds are flowing.  You will be able to see that the rent was paid and the phone bill was taken care of. 

Dwindling financial capacity is common in the elderly.  Take a step today.  It’s easy and you will know a great deal more.

Long-term care is expensive.  Protect your parents now.

Strategy #2: Block Fraudsters Forever

Put your parents’ credit agencies on freeze or hold.  This takes 10 minutes and it’s the single best way to protect against large scale eldercare fraud.

Here’s how it works.  To open up any new line of credit (e.g., credit card, loan) the institution providing the loan checks with credit agencies.  They run the credit history of the person receiving the loan. 

There are three credit agencies: EquifaxExperian, and TransUnion.  They rate your credit.  Combined together they make your credit score.

If you freeze these accounts it blocks anyone from getting a new credit card or loan without your parent’s knowing first.

  In one move you’ve blocked any eldercare fraudster from wrecking your parents’ credit. 

You just need a few pieces of basic information: full name, address, social security number and date of birth. 

  • Equifax – Click Here! – snail mail required
  • Experian – Click Here! – 100% online
  • Trans Union – Click Here! – 100% online

The Conversation

I often hear ‘my parents and I never spoke about money’ or ‘I don’t have control over my own finances, how can I talk to my parents about theirs?’ 

These feelings are common.  A great approach to consider for speaking to your parents about helping out with their finances comes from Michelle Perry Higgins at the WSJ.

“I just met with my financial planner (or estate planner) and she brought up a few questions about my own estate that made me wonder if you also have these issues.  I would appreciate your insight on these issues, and I also want to see if you need help in any of these areas. Can we sit down and talk about this on Tuesday at 6pm?”

Planning Ahead

There are three phases to overseeing your parents’ finances.  So far we have spoken mostly about the first, monitor.  As your loved one ages think about the next two phases:

  • Protect – Get your parents “Do Not Call” lists for their home as cell phones as well as the “Do Not Mail List” to cut down on eldercare fraud.  Also file a durable power of attorney for finances.
  • Intervene – Consider guardianship in the late stages of your parent’s life if you haven’t been able to put legal measures in place.    

In this journey get the support you deserve.  Take action!

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