Published by Ryan Cooley, Associate Wealth Advisor
We typically think of parents taking care of their children, not the other way around. But oftentimes at some point in our lives, these roles are reversed. Whereas in the first two decades or so of your life, your parents helped train, teach, and guide you every step of the way, in their later years they may be the ones needing your help—whether it’s helping them carry boxes, reading the fine print, or more important things like helping manage their finances and estate. Stepping into the role of your parents’ caretaker comes with many responsibilities for which you may not be prepared.
While it may be difficult to watch your parents age, having a plan in place can help ease the burden of responsibility, especially during a stressful time of transition. The following legal and financial considerations are important to keep in mind when planning for your aging parents’ financial legacy.
1. Get That Will in Place!
How many times have you heard a story in the news about a celebrity who died without a will and left their relatives and business partners with a raucous legal battle? Case in point: The battle over Jimi Hendrix’s estate continues to this day (more than 50 years later!) all because he had no will.
While you may consider your family above such squabbles, it’s better not to test that assumption. You never know how large amounts of money will affect people and their behavior. Your parents need to have a will that spells out their final wishes, including who will carry out those wishes as the executor of their estate.
This is especially important in situations with blended families. It’s all too common for someone to neglect to update their will and leave an ex-wife or ex-husband as the sole inheritor or executor of an estate. Not only do your parents need a will, but they also need to make sure it is updated to reflect their current situation and desired legacy.
The importance of double-checking beneficiary designations goes beyond just a will. Make sure your parents have gone through all of their accounts, including life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and other savings, and verified that their listed beneficiaries are correct.
2. Start the Long-Term Care Conversation
If your parents are over 65, there’s a 70% chance they’ll need some sort of long-term care services in their lifetime. That’s a high possibility that should be taken seriously.
Your whole family needs to come together to develop a plan for caring for your parents when the time comes. Discuss topics such as: Who will provide care for them? Who will pay for the care? Does it make sense for them to purchase long-term care insurance?
All too often, the most responsible or local son or daughter ends up shouldering the entire burden. This leads to burnout and resentment toward the other siblings. Save your family the trouble and proactively come up with a plan that everyone can agree on.
3. Assign Roles and Responsibilities
Approximately one in nine people age 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s. There’s a chance that a time will come when at least one of your parents is no longer able to make decisions for himself or herself. Who is going to make decisions for them at that point, both financial and medical?
While this can be an uncomfortable conversation, don’t avoid it. This is something you need to discuss with your parents and get the proper legal documents in place before they become incapacitated. Having simple powers of attorney written up will save you the trouble of going to court to request the right to help your parents when they need it most. And if your parents are comfortable with it, it would be a good idea to have one or more of their kids added to a bill-paying account. This way, if an emergency situation arises, they can access cash reserves to pay bills and debt payments immediately instead of waiting for assets to be released or legal documents to be enacted.
4. Invest in Your Relationship
While it is important to have all of the proper legal documents in place and have a plan for how to take care of your parents when they can no longer take care of themselves, for most people, their biggest regret is simply that they didn’t make the most of their time with their parents.
We all know that our time here on earth is limited, so we need to spend it investing in those we love. As you watch your parents age, it’s a visual reminder that your time with them is coming to an end. Consider creating a routine to make sure you spend time with them frequently while you still can. Can you make a standing date for breakfast on Fridays or a phone call on Sunday afternoons? Carving time out of your busy schedule for your parents is one of the very best ways to prepare for these final years of their lives.
5. Enlist the Help of a Professional
Attempting to manage your parents’ financial situation on your own can feel overwhelming with all the decisions to make and various family opinions to contend with. Parents may also not be receptive to these difficult conversations with their children and the role reversal they find themselves in. This is where the help of an experienced financial advisor can make a world of difference for everyone involved. Someone knowledgeable and skilled in helping families make important decisions about such things as wills, retirement, and estate planning can be a great asset in these sensitive situations.
At Jacob William Advisory, we are dedicated to supporting, educating, and providing informed direction to every client. If you would like help planning for your parents’ future, contact our office by calling 410-821-6724 or emailing email@example.com or schedule an appointment at https://www.jacobwilliam.com/insights/#contact. You may also take the retirement readiness quiz or download one of our complimentary guides here: https://www.jacobwilliam.com/insights/free-guides/).
Ryan Cooley is an Associate Wealth Advisor at Jacob William Advisory, a wealth management firm whose sole mission is to serve its clients’ needs beyond their expectations. Ryan has a military background as a U.S. Army Infantryman, and he applies the values and character traits he learned through his experience to his role as a financial advisor. To this day, Ryan is passionate about veterans’ issues and holds a seat on the Advisory Board for Operation Second Chance, and is a lifetime member of the Disabled American Veterans organization. Ryan obtained his bachelor’s degree in economics and his MBA from the University of Maryland. Outside of the office, Ryan enjoys spending time with his wife, Germaine, and their two wonderful children. He currently resides in Urbana, Maryland, and loves to fish, hunt, cook, watch Maryland Terrapin sports, and cheer his son and daughter on in all of their activities. To learn more about Ryan, connect with him on LinkedIn.