17 Jun Mom is getting older. How can I help with her money?
Q. My mother has always handled her own money, even when my father was alive. She’s still doing fine but I think I should be able to see her accounts just in case she needs help. She doesn’t believe in online banking or bill pay but I think that’s the easiest way for me to keep an eye on things. What’s the best way to do this?
A. It’s great that you want to look out for your mother.
Your first move should be to start the conversation.
Many providers are now asking that all accounts name a “trusted advisor,” which is a person the institution can reach out to if the account owner can’t be reached, said Jody D’Agostini, a certified financial planner with Equitable Advisors/The Falcon Financial Group in Morristown.
You should encourage her to do this to prepare for a possible mental or physical incapacity, she said.
“Your mother should decide on a person that would fill this very important role not just for her financial matters, but also for any medical situations that might lend themselves to this need,” she said.
She recommends your mom consider updating her will and as part of that, adding a “power of attorney,” which names an individual to help with legal or financial decisions in the case of an incapacity, as well as a health care power of attorney or directive, which names an individual who would assist in medical decisions if needed.
D’Agostini said you should start slowly by asking her to inform you of her overall financial situation.
“You will need to establish a trusting relationship as many are not comfortable yielding control even as they age,” she said. “One place to begin would be cataloging her financial accounts, custodians, and account numbers, and determine where she is receiving her current income from.”
It would also be helpful to identify any key advisors that she might have and get their contact information.
If you have other siblings or potential beneficiaries of her estate, make sure that you catalog all your moves and conversations to avoid any misconceptions that might arise, D’Agostini said.
“Your help could be misconstrued in the future, so this is a must,” she said. “Make sure not to blend your finances. Keep your mother’s estate separate.”
D’Agostini said to look out for signs that aging may be playing a role in her financial decision-making. You should watch to see if she begins to make different types of purchases than she normally does or begins to make big investment moves, she said.
“Financial acuity is one of the first signs of mental incapacity. If she is showing any cognitive slowdowns, try to gently ask her to oversee what she is doing to add insight and perspective,” she said. “Try not to make large moves at the outset, but rather make moves gradually and with full transparency. If she is not opening her mail, paying bills on time or complains that she doesn’t have enough money, this may give you the opportunity to help.”
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This story was originally published on July 17, 2022.
NJMoneyHelp.com presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.