We all know that financial abuse and undue influence are problems with our elders. We also know that better, more frequent and clearer communication about financial matters in families can do a great deal to protect the aging family members. But they’re not talking.
We have research to reveal how much of a problem this is. What is shows is that only a minority of seniors are sharing their financial information with their kids and the adult children are finding that aging parents are reluctant to have these money conversations.
On the other side of the problem, the adult children have not been stepping up and initiating the necessary conversations. These talks need to go much further than what assets an aging parent has, of course. They need to include plans for how a parent will manage paying for care in their future, should they become impaired.
One of the best ways to protect aging clients against the many ways they can be abused financially is to ensure that all those in a position to protect their elders have the means to do so. Those means include access to their financial situation, knowledge of a parent’s assets, debts, where things are kept, who the accountant is, the estate planning documents and much more.
When aging parents think their finances are private, it poses a special challenge for their adult kids. They may refuse to discuss it, saying everything is fine and “don’t worry, it’s handled”. This may or may not be true. Aging parents may fail to anticipate how difficult it is to take action when they become disabled by anything they didn’t expect. They may not want to think about becoming infirm, or being felled by a stroke that leaves them unable to function independently.
Think about this: what would you do if your aging parent suddenly became unable to function tomorrow?
Would you know how to pay all the bills, know what was due and where to access a parent’s cash needed to cover any uninsured medical expenses? Would you be lost? Put yourself in a client’s shoes, a client who has aging loved ones. Would your client be perfectly okay or would this create a crisis?
Having the money conversations is a critical responsibility for families, both for parents and their adult children.
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