Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Business Affairs And The Elderly

     There are many things to think about when it comes to taking care of business concerns.  Taking charge of making sure the parent’s bills are taken care of is a huge worry off their minds.  It’s important to know where all the legal documents are and just what there is to take care of.  Make a list of all bills that need to be taken care of and the addresses to where the payments need to be sent.  Check to see if there’s any balance on any of the accounts.  Find out if there is any extra bills that are not utility type bills such as, monthly donations or Christmas club dues, or maybe they are sponsoring an over seas child each month.  Evaluate at this time, (with the parent) if the budget can continue to fund these things. 
       In today’s world the task of taking care of the monthly bills is getting easier everyday, with the use of the internet.  By going online, most bills can be paid on a monthly basis now with very little effort.  This will most likely have to be set up for them being as though most elderly people are not internet savvy.   I would also recommend if possible in your area, to have your parent’s utilities put on a budget with utility companies.  This will allow them to make easier payments and free up some of their capitol for other uses. 
     Bills that are not reoccurring, like groceries, getting their hair cut or that weekly massage, will have to be taken care of the old fashion way, just do it for them.  When it’s time to get groceries, go for them or have someone go, or if they feel they want to go, go with them.  This is another example of allowing them to hold onto their dignity longer.  Tell them, you love going to the store with them and ask them not to take that pleasure away from you.  This gives them another example of your love for them and also allows them to get the help they need with getting the groceries. 
       It may be a smart business move to put any large assets such as vehicles or the family home place and property into the names of all the children.  It would probably be a smart move to talk to a lawyer that deals with estate planning who also offers Medicaid planning services in case you parent might need government assistance with in the next three years.  Often, if a parent has to go to a rest home facility and they have much in the way of assets, they might find themselves in a bad financial spot, which could effect their forfeiting their property.  Transferring assets may also put those that are receiving such property, eligible for being taxed on it.  These are important things to think about and should be discussed with a qualified lawyer.
     Someone will have to agree to take on the position of power of attorney.  If there’s only one child involved the decision is easy, but if there are more it can become a little bit troublesome.  If your parent has already decided which child this duty will fall to, do them a favor and respect those wishes.  This is something that is probably going to be worrisome to them anyway. They will most likely worry that they may be hurting some ones feelings.  Do all that you can do to let them know that you support what they have decided.  It can be a lot of work being the person with power of attorney or the executor of the will.  This person has to be willing to do the paper work and the research of assets if it is unknown.  This person also bears the burden of making the final decision on most all the legal decisions to be made.  If you’re not the one chosen in the family to do this job, please be patient with the one that is and show them your support.  Usually, it is customary that the person doing this job is compensated by at least $5000.00 for taking it on.  This should not be a source of contention between siblings because the job will require much work to do it right.  My sister did it for our family and did it very well.  She is the one that found the extra money that we (and our mother) didn’t know she had.  She spent many hours on the job and did it graciously.  She didn’t take a penny extra for it and that was an honorable thing to do if you’re so inclined to do so.  It is also recommended that once the power of attorney has been decided on, to also have detailed in a document that names a second person who will take a look at all the bank statements on a monthly basis and do an analysis of all the financial records yearly.  This person can be another family member or a professional accountant.
       It’s also important to try to find extra money for a later time.  Using financial tools such as reverse mortgage can improve the cash flow of the elderly. 
       Checking for benefits that your parents might be eligible for such as a reduction in their heating bills or help with their prescription drugs can really make a difference.  There are many avenues to get help out there but actually only about half the people who qualify for such help actually use it.
       When making purchasing or financial decisions on behave of your parent, it is also wise to consult with other siblings if there are any.  Don’t make the mistake of making an important, or even a not so important decision without consulting the family involved.  This will only open your self up to problems down the road.  Someone will always have a different way to have handled it and will tell you about it.  When you are in charge of the bills and the worries that come with it, the last thing you want to hear from a sibling is that you didn’t do it the right way or that your decision wasn’t done fairly.  Look ahead and prepare in advance.  Even the closes families have issues over money.  Don’t be so naive as to think that yours will not.  When you have done all that you can do to make the decision and the family can’t seem to come to an agreement on something, then it is your job as the executor or power of attorney to make that decision and everyone should support that decision, even if they don’t agree to it.  The only other thing that you can do it to agree on (with the parent) another non bias person, sort of a mediator to make any decisions that are in dead lock.  This way no family member can be upset with any other family member.  All these issues need to be understood and worked out well in advance so that there is no questions or misgivings later.  It wouldn’t even be a bad idea for all family members to sign and agreement stating that they understand the way that procedures will go forth and they will abide by them. 
       Of course, if the parent is still healthy and able to make clear decisions, they are the ones that should set for the procedures and how things will be handled and they will be the ones having everyone else do the signing of understanding.

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