Financial Paperwork and Information Your Elderly Parents Should Have On Hand

Financial Paperwork and Information Your Elderly Parents Should Have On Hand

Your elderly parents need help keeping their financial paperwork in order.

You want to help, but you don't know what information you need to have and where to keep it.

To help us understand how to help elderly parents with their financial paperwork, we contacted Dr. Cathleen V. Carr. She holds a doctorate in regenerative medicine, is a lawyer, lifetime caregiver, and the founder and Executive Director of CertifiedCare

Q: Many elderly parents are reluctant to involve their adult children in their finances. How can a caregiver tactfully find out what financial records exist and where they're stored?

Dr. Carr: Keep in mind that previous generations are taught to keep their financial information private. Simply start by casually talking about your concerns and the issues you want to discuss. Gently, ask them if they have given any of their financial affairs thought and if they have any preferences about how their resources are managed in the event they are unable to make those decisions themselves.

Q: What financial documents are essential for parents and caregivers to have?

Dr. Carr: 

A Living Will - If you want to be certain that your elders' wishes about medical treatment are followed even if he/she becomes incompetent, make sure that they put those wishes in writing, using a living will. 

A Durable or Springing Power of Attorney (POA) - A document that specifies who will be in charge of your elders' affairs should he or she become incompetent. The durable POA is in effect and force upon terms contained within the POA and those powers continue even after incompetence. 

An Advance Directive - A document that allows you to declare your preferences for end of life care, such as whether or not life support can be used, etc.

A Will - For distribution of the estate after death in according to the descendants wishes.

Q: Where should originals of important financial documents be kept?

Dr. Carr: Original Advance Directives, Healthcare POAs and Living Wills should be given to the physician or local hospital most likely to provide care. The original financial documents should be held by an Attorney or filed with the county Probate Court. Only leave originals in a home safe if someone in addition to the elder has the combination to it.

Q: Do any of the documents become more important if your parents become incapacitated? Do any documents become ineffective?

Dr. Carr: All of them become more important if the elder becomes incapacitated. They are designed for that circumstance. The Will is the only one that only becomes effective only after death, after the others are no longer are relevant.

Carol Marak
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Carol Marak earned a Fundamentals of Gerontology Certificate from the USC Davis School of Gerontology and advocates on behalf of older adults and family caregivers. She simpli ... Click for full bio

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