Hi Taylor - My dad passed a few years ago and my husband and I just moved my mom into an assisted living facility. We’re all dealing with the emotional part of it pretty well, but I’m starting to stress about the finances. Not just paying for mom over these next few years, but what happens with her accounts after she passes. Anything I can do to start prepping?
Hey Rachel - This is a really hard question for people to ask, but it’s so important. None of us likes talking about death, but we owe it to our parents—and our children—to have these conversations early and often so there’s no administrative nightmare attached to a loved one’s passing.
Have the conversation. Try to talk to your mom about this. She might be resistant, but she might be more open to the talk than you expect. This will be really helpful when it comes to getting all the different accounts and legal items in order. You’ll want to know what lawyers have worked on what, what kind of outstanding debts might hide in different places, and where all the liens and pink slips and deeds are, etc. If your mom has her faculties and wants to help, this can be a really cathartic thing to work on together. If she’s not interested in the topic, you need to start doing some detective work on your own to see what’s out there.
Take some responsibility. As gently as possible, see what financial matters you can take control of. Even if it’s just paying utilities or depositing social security checks, becoming part of the process will make it an easier transfer when it all lands on your plate. If your mom has investment accounts, see if you can get in touch with the broker and have your name added to the account now. This is a good way to start taking control without making your mom feel like she’s being shouldered out.
Don’t merge accounts. Even if your mom is happy to hand you the reigns on every little thing, you still need to keep your accounts separate for a lot of reasons. Tax issues will get stickier, and you might end up spending a lot more of your own money than you expected to once the lines get blurred. I apologize if accounting isn’t your thing, but you’ll have to play the role of bookkeeper for a while as these things get sorted out.
Ask for help as much as you can. CFPs like myself are here for just this type of thing, so if you know someone who does this type of work or want to go hire a professional, that can make your life a lot easier. Best of luck with everything, Rachel!
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