Have you ever thought about what you would do if you suddenly had to take over the management of your parents' money and finances? What if a parent became incapacitated or became sick, and now you have to take over paying bills and managing their finances on their behalf? Sadly, it happens to many caregivers. Do you think you are prepared? What can you do to help them get their ducks in a row? While we know this can be a delicate subject, it would be helpful to find out as much as you can about your parents' finances now so that you're prepared to step in later if necessary. Talk with your parents or a loved one about their finances BEFORE they need your help and can no longer take care of it themselves. Starting the dialogue with your parents and siblings is so important. FamilyEducation.com is a helpful website that gives tips on how to start the dialogue. Here's a list of steps you should take and things you should know about your parents' or loved one's finances if you ever need to take over: Do they have the five basic estate planning documents? These are the documents that no matter your financial, personal or health situation, everyone should have. These documents will allow a person, assuming they have mental capacity, to select who will make financial and medical decisions for them when it becomes necessary. The five basic documents include: (1) a Durable Power of Attorney; (2) a Health Care Proxy; (3) a HIPAA Release; (4) a Living Will/Advance Directive; and (5) a Last Will and Testament. A Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) will allow someone (usually an adult child) to step in a parents' shoes when the time comes to make legal and financial decisions on their behalf. Without a DPOA in place, you would need to go to court to get conservatorship of your parent or loved one in order to have the authority to access accounts on their behalf. A Health Care Proxy (HCP) is the document where your parent or loved one would name someone to make medical decisions on their behalf. Without a HCP, someone would need to go to court to get guardianship of your parent or loved one, a costly and time consuming process that can be easily avoided. A HIPAA release grants you access to important medication information so you (if chosen) can help your parents make informed decisions about their care. A Living Will helps your parents express their personal wishes at the end of their days. Finally, there is the Last Will and Testament, which controls how assets will pass after your parents are gone. Do you know where your parents' or loved one keep their financial records? Do they keep their documents in a desk drawer? This will be an important discussion to have with them. Do they want you to have access to these papers? Are they in a personal safe? In a shoebox in the closet? Is important to know where to look. Perhaps they aren't as organized as you would need them to be. It will be easier to address that sooner rather than later. What are their bank account numbers and names of their financial institutions? In addition to knowing where they keep their money, they may want you to have specifics on all account numbers. What bank(s) do they use? Where do they keep their statements? Do they have a safety deposit box? Do they own any credit cards? Is there a mortgage on the home? Do they have an investment firm? These are the types of questions that you need to know so that you can find the records when you need them. What are your parents' monthly expenses and on going bills? Talk to them about gathering information on their mortgage, car payment, credit card debt, utility bills and any other expenses they may have. What is their monthly income? Do they receive a pension? Social Security? Rental income? Do they get money for a disability, or alimony? If your parent or loved one becomes incapacitated, you may have to investigate the status and eligibility of government assistance. What kind of medical health insurance do they have in addition to Medicare? Do they have health insurance provided by an employer? If they are retired, are health benefits included as part of a pension? Do they have long-term care insurance? A "regular" health insurance plan does not cover the cost of assisted living or a nursing home. Did they purchase a long-term care insurance policy to cover the cost of those residences? If not, and they can no longer live on their own, what can they afford in terms of housing? Do they have an accountant or financial planner? Who is it and how do you contact them? Have they done any estate planning? What would happen if you had to suddenly take over management of a parents' money and finances? If a parent becomes incapacitated, someone has to take over paying bills and managing their money. It happens to many caregivers. Are they (and you) prepared? Your parents may see the importance of sharing this information before they can no longer take care of themselves or their finances. This article is based upon information gathered from various sources, including an article by Marlo Sollitto titled "10 Things You Should Know About Your Parent's Finances" and a Teri Cettina article titled "8 steps for managing parents' finances". All information is believed to be reliable, complete and accurate. However, no guarantee is made by Surprenant & Beneski, P.C. as to the reliability, completeness and accuracy of the information. This article is for illustrative purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. There is no attorney/client relationship created with Surprenant & Beneski, P.C. by this article. Do Not make decisions based upon information in this article. Every family is unique and legal advice can only be given after an individual consultation with an elder law attorney. Any decisions made without proper legal advice may cause significant legal and financial problems. ©Surprenant & Beneski, P.C. 35 Arnold Street, New Bedford, MA 02740, 336 South Street, Hyannis MA 02601 and 45 Bristol Drive, Easton, MA 02375. This article is for illustration purposes only. This handout does not constitute legal advice. There is no attorney/client relationship created with Surprenant & Beneski, P.C. by this article. DO NOT make decisions based upon information in this handout. Every family is unique and legal advice can only be given after an individual consultation with an elder law attorney. Any decisions made without proper legal advice may cause significant legal and financial problems.