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Helping Mom and Dad – without Intruding

Some elderly parents are more than happy to let their children take over the job of paying bills, reconciling the checkbook and making deposits, especially if the parent is a widow or widower who never handled the financial responsibilities of the marriage.  Other parents may fiercely guard their independence and want to stay involved in their finances.  There are steps that children can take to be ready to step in when a parent is no longer able to handle the tasks:

  • Arrange for certain bills to be sent to the child in the event the parent fails to pay on time.  For example, utilities, insurance companies and credit card issuers can be given the child’s name and e-mail address, with instructions that the child is to be notified if a bill has not been paid within a specified time after the due date.

  • Add the child as a signator on financial accounts.  The parent can remain the sole owner of the accounts, but the child can direct that payments be made if the parent becomes unable to act.  Ask financial institutions to forward monthly statements to the child, who can monitor them for any unusual activity.

  • Sign up for direct deposit of Social Security payments, pension checks and other sources of income.  This prevents the misplacement of checks through the mail and avoids a trip to the bank.

These measures can be especially important if the child does not live close to the parent, and may serve as a signal when it’s time for the child to provide more assistance or obtain more help for the parent.


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