For those who will become the executors of your parents' estates, before your parents pass away and before they become too ill to have a say in their finances, consider doing some think-work that will save you much hassle in the long run.
Get power of attorney. This is a trust issue, but if they trust you with their estate, they shouldn't have a problem. Make sure you know your parents' social security numbers and exact date of births.
If there is someone else such as a caregiver living with your parent or parents, ask your parents to have a credit report sent via the three major credit reporting companies. This way, if there is anything out of the ordinary, you can start investigating right away.
Make sure you have a list of all creditors and institutions where your parents do business. Know all IRA accounts, banks, hospitals, health insurance companies, life insurance companies (often paid quarterly), etc. A credit report will have much of this, but not everything.
Find out what gets automatically paid from your parents' checking account each month. If there is an auto-pay from the phone company that takes out an amount each month from your parents' checking account(s), then make sure that you are going to be able to stop that when your parents no longer need a phone. There are two kinds of auto-pays. They include ones from the bank (preferred) and bills that are "subtracted" from your checking account. Make sure that you have set up payment only through the bank for all your bills. This will make it easier to see all the bills that will need to be paid when your parents become bedridden.
Get a list of the bills they pay, and if any of the bills are online, make sure that you have their login names and passwords.
Not only will you need the creditors list, but a list of anyone who owes your parents money.
Make sure you know your parents' primary care physician. This is the person that should be tracking your parents' health throughout their illness(es). If you don't know, then you are likely to confuse the cardiologists, urologists, etc. when you call them to find out how your parent or parents are doing.
If you have siblings, call them and let them know what you are doing. Also, if there is someone you trust that visits your parents periodically, then it might be a good idea to give them your phone number as well. This way, if there is anything that seems out of the ordinary concerning finances or health, this person can call you and chat about it, especially if there is another caregiver living in your parents' house.
Check out the caregiver. Find out if they have a criminal record, even if your parents' church recommended them to your parents.
For heavens' sakes, ask your parents about their finances. A generation ago, these things were not discussed. Now, it's very necessary because it makes sense and because there are too many desperate people in the world who take advantage of the young and old alike.
These are just preliminary precautions. Someone took advantage of my father while he was on his deathbed. This someone stole from a credit card they got by "adding" their name to the account without my father's knowledge. They also had his basic trust and his ATM card (and wallet) and withdrew thousands from his checking account each month. So much so that he had to borrow money from his children. He went from having no credit card debt to having almost $15,000 in debt in less than a year. I wasn't keeping up with his finances and had taken the word of his caregiver that he was "okay" health-wise. If I had checked with his physician, I would have known better.
If you are in your seventies or older, make sure to write down all the things listed here, as well. Even if you don't have much, tell your children that you don't have much instead of having them guess as to whether you had hidden accounts somewhere. Believe me, you'll cause much less stress in the lives of your children and yourself in the long run.
"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money please send it by mailto:MyStory@stretcher.com
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