How to Prepare Seniors for Someone Else to Handle Their Financial Affairs
One area that few seniors prepare for is arranging for someone else to handle their financial affairs when they can no longer fully care for themselves. This is easy to put off, for three primary reasons.
First, there are a lot of difficult emotions involved with the thought of losing our cognitive ability and the inherent freedom to financially care for ourselves. This is something we have done for ourselves all our lives, so it’s very hard to imagine not being able to do so.
Second, for many of us the loss of cognitive ability is slow and almost unrecognizable. There isn’t an urgency that suggests we need to do anything soon. Often by the time we do realize we need help, it’s too late for us to arrange for it.
Finally, while we're in good health we tend not to consider the possibility of a sudden catastrophic health event. Yet such a crisis can leave us without a plan and no way in which to have any say in what happens.
Fortunately, if you are reading this you have time to prepare. The following information is based on the work of Carolyn McClanahan, MD, CFP, particularly a presentation given to the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors in May of 2016. She suggests the major questions to answer are:
- Who will be in charge?
- Are the right documents in place?
- How will you monitor your decline?
- Do you have a written investment policy?
- How will the transition occur?
Who will be in charge? Choosing a trusted third party to take over bill paying, investment management, and financial caretaking is essential. Options include a spouse, a child or other relative, a friend, a professional bookkeeper, or a financial planner. For couples, the odds are that both partners won't lose their ability to handle financial affairs at the same time. If one spouse handles most of the money matters, it's important that the noninvolved spouse becomes involved in the bill paying routine and understands the basics of the couple’s finances. If you are the caretaking or surviving spouse, or if you are single, designating a financial caretaker is crucial.
Are the right documents in place? The most important document is your power of attorney that names the person or organization who will be in charge of your finances. If the bulk of your net worth is in retirement accounts, annuities, and jointly owned, another option is to create a living trust, place everything you own individually in it, and identify the successor trustee who is in charge when you can no longer make decisions.
How will you monitor your decline? It’s important to have some written agreement in place—even if for no one but yourself—that lists the triggering events which will indicate to you the time has come to transfer the control to someone else. It’s up to you to determine what these triggers are and to self-assess every few years.
Do you have a written investment policy? And is it current? This is a good time to review your investment policy, making sure it’s been updated to reflect your changing cash flow needs and asset allocation. You might also evaluate your ownership of any complicated and illiquid assets like real estate or closely held business interests. It may be wise to simplify and liquidate them while you're still capable of managing them, before it's time to pass responsibility to a surrogate.
Once you've answered these four questions, it's time to consider the last step that I'll address next week: how the transition should take place.
Most Read IRIS Articles of the Week (February 20-24)
Here’s a look at the Top 11 Most Viewed Articles of the Week on IRIS.xyz, February 20-24, 2017
Click the headline to read the full article.
Becoming cyborgs is the way to go for financial advisers…blending robotics and humans into one organism. You see, I am convinced that robo-advice models will succeed and prosper. — Tony Vidler
With the global economy warming up, but political uncertainty remaining a constant, it’s more important than ever for investors to position their global portfolios to navigate long-term market volatility. That’s where the power of diversification comes in ... — Yazann Romahi
The financial world is noisy and it’s easy to become distracted from your most important long-term goals. One way to cut through the noise is to focus on just the two factors that ultimately determine your approach to everything else in your financial life; namely, Market Risk and Shortfall Risk. — James E. Wilson
It’s important to admit the truth behind our actions in order to rectify past and future mistakes or regrets. Living in denial only perpetuates making decisions that could potentially lead to financial disaster. — Michael Kay
There's one key approach that makes you invaluable to your clients so they want to stay with you for the long-term. You have to genuinely be interested in people. — Paul Kingsman
When you start dating, you usually start off sharing stories. Tales of your childhood, your previous relationships and your college days. Those stories help explain to your partner who you are and how you act. — Mary Beth Storjohann
It runs counter-intuitive to what we have been led to believe business is all about: make more money and everybody wins, surely? Talk about revenue so that everyone knows what’s important. What’s the problem? — Barry Chandler
In the wake of President Donald Trump’s stunning upset victory, however, muni investors were forced to readjust their expectations of fiscal policy going forward. Because Trump had campaigned on deep cuts to corporate and personal income taxes, equities soared while munis sold off, ending a near-record 54 weeks of net inflows. — Frank Holmes
What does it mean to be a customer-centric company? That seems to be the question of the week. It started off with one of our subscribers emailing in the question, followed by two reporters wanting my take on this now-popular phrase for their interviews. — Paul Laughlin
Everywhere I look I see organizations and people investing heavily in new initiatives, transformation, and change programs. And in almost every case the goals will never be met. One of the most crucial causes of the failure? The right questions were never asked at the outset. — Paul Taylor
Why should we think the head of a private equity company could effectively “fix” US Intelligence? It is not apparent that this individual is even remotely qualified to fix the US intelligence apparatus. — Kathleen McBride
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