Helping Elderly Parents: The Complete Guide

|

May 2, 2023

Updated

Jul 12, 2024

Trustworthy is an intelligent digital vault that protects and optimizes your family's information so that you can save time, money, and enjoy peace of mind.

daughter with elderly mother

Helping Elderly Parents: The Complete Guide

|

May 2, 2023

Updated

Jul 12, 2024

Trustworthy is an intelligent digital vault that protects and optimizes your family's information so that you can save time, money, and enjoy peace of mind.

daughter with elderly mother

Helping Elderly Parents: The Complete Guide

|

May 2, 2023

Updated

Jul 12, 2024

Trustworthy is an intelligent digital vault that protects and optimizes your family's information so that you can save time, money, and enjoy peace of mind.

daughter with elderly mother

Helping Elderly Parents: The Complete Guide

|

May 2, 2023

Updated

Jul 12, 2024

Trustworthy is an intelligent digital vault that protects and optimizes your family's information so that you can save time, money, and enjoy peace of mind.

We’ll help your parents prepare their estate

Trustworthy provides turnkey software and service to help get your parents' estate organized and prepared.

We’ll help your parents prepare their estate

Trustworthy provides turnkey software and service to help get your parents' estate organized and prepared.

Aging is an inevitable part of life, but it doesn’t mean you instinctively know how to help a parent who is getting older.

It can be hard to view the people who've always taken care of you as suddenly needing your help. Caring for elderly parents can encompass many different aspects. It’s not just about giving them an arm to hold on to as they maneuver down a set of icy steps, but also about knowing when and how to assist them with their finances, legal issues, estate planning, health decisions, and even end-of-life matters.

Understanding the important role you can play in assisting your aging parents and knowing where, when, and how to start can make this journey more manageable.

Key Takeaways

  • Start discussing financial and legal matters with your aging parents while they are still of sound mind.

  • Develop practical steps and strategies before an urgent need arises.

  • Familiarize yourself with the legal instruments available, such as power of attorney, living wills, and trusts, which can help safeguard your parents’ financial interests.

  • Understand the experts and resources that can support you in this process.

Having 'the Talk' With Your Elderly Parents

Financial decisions are numerous and complex at any age, but managing them tends to become more challenging as people grow older.

Research indicates that many adult children assist their aging parents with finances, whether that’s covering bills, managing money, or helping in other ways. A 2024 NerdWallet survey revealed that 55% of Americans already assist their parents, or expect to. Additionally, a 2023 Pew Research Center survey found that 66% of respondents believe adult children have a fair amount or a great deal of responsibility for caregiving for elderly parents in need.

When is the best time to talk to your parents about their money matters? Sooner than you think — ideally when your parents are still able to competently and independently manage their own finances. 

You can start these conversations many different ways. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • “I know this might be hard to talk about, but I care about you and want to make sure you’re taken care of. Can we find a time to discuss some plans for the future and how I can help you?”

  • “I’ve noticed ____, and I’m a little concerned.”

  • “I want you to keep enjoying the things you love. Can we talk about how I can help you do that?”

Remember that your parents will likely need some time to process your offer of assistance. Talking about getting older is often emotional, and no one likes to feel like they’re losing independence. Don’t be surprised if your suggestion gets brushed off initially.

When your parents do agree to chat, propose a non-hectic time and a quiet place where you can talk uninterrupted. (Not, say, their grandchild’s fifth birthday at the trampoline gym.)

This likely won’t be a “one and done” talk, but an ongoing conversation. If your parents’ current situation allows, communicating one step at a time (“This week, let’s make a list of everything that’s in your safe deposit box”) may be a smoother strategy than asking them to do or decide many things at once.

Your suggestion to help your parents might go over better if you offer them the chance to give something back. For example, you could invite them to tell some personal stories you’ve never heard or share details about family heirlooms.

Make an Action Plan to Care for Elderly Parents

Every big project or set of responsibilities is less intimidating when you break it down into small steps. If you’re a checklist type of person, here’s an overview of what you’ll need to do to get your elderly parents’ finances in order.

Start a File of Your Parents’ Important Papers

This file should include:

  • Names and contact information of friends, doctors, lawyers, professional advisors, relatives, and religious contacts.

  • Birth and marriage certificates.

  • Other legal certificates (such as immigration, citizenship, divorce, or adoption papers).

  • Sources of income and assets (such as pensions and other retirement plans, investment accounts, interest, and Social Security), with account numbers and contact information.

  • Financial institution names, account numbers, and PINs.Medicare/Medicaid information.

  • Health, home, auto, and life insurance policies, including policy numbers and contact information.

  • Recurring bills (mortgages, other loans, property taxes, insurance, utilities, etc.), with account numbers and contact information.

  • Credit card names, numbers, and contact information.Important passwords.

  • Copies of recent tax returns.

  • Original deed of trust for home.

  • Vehicle titles and registration documents.

  • Military records.

Gathering and organizing this information can be difficult, particularly with the other responsibilities of caring for elderly parents. We are here to help. Trustworthy is a single, safe place to organize and manage your parents’ important information. Their sensitive information will be protected and available whenever you need it.

Create a Payment Schedule  

In the event that you’ll need to start taking over your parents’ bills, knowing ahead of time what needs to be paid and when will make the transition much smoother.

Let us help your aging parents get their lives in order

Trustworthy's award-winning software and expert advisors can guide your parents through their end-of-life planning.

Let us help your aging parents get their lives in order

Trustworthy's award-winning software and expert advisors can guide your parents through their end-of-life planning.

Let us help your aging parents get their lives in order

Trustworthy's award-winning software and expert advisors can guide your parents through their end-of-life planning.

Let us help your aging parents get their lives in order

Trustworthy's award-winning software and expert advisors can guide your parents through their end-of-life planning.

You can use the custom reminders feature in Trustworthy to make sure you never miss a due date or pay a late fee. 

Make an Inventory of Your Parents’ Safe Deposit Box 

You may be able to access the box on your own if you have power of attorney (and the key), but if you don’t, it’s best to bring your parents with you.

Gather the Legal Documents You May Need

If you’re not familiar with these documents, we’ve got you covered. Keep reading for more specifics.

Consider Whom You Can Turn to for Support

Depending on your parents’ and your needs, you may want to add professionals to your team. These professionals may include:

  • Financial planner, advisor, or accountant.

  • Estate planning attorney

  • Wills attorney.

  • Trust administration attorney.

  • Other witnesses to sign specific documents.

If you have siblings, keep them updated as you work through these steps. Coordination and transparency as you begin to assist your parents will likely help stave off confusion or conflict down the line.

Trustworthy makes the communication process seamless and easy. Add the necessary people as collaborators into the account and you can also limit category specific access for each individual.:

Trustworthy will help your parents prepare their estate

We’ll match your parents with a Trustworthy Certified Expert™, a real person, in their city who will help them organize their estate with the award-winning Family Operating System®.

Secure & private

256-bit AES encryption, two-factor authentication, and HIPAA and SOC 3 compliance mean your parents’ information is protected.

Collaborative

You can collaborate with your parents and their advisors so that everyone has access to the right information at the right time.

Service included

Our Trustworthy Certified Experts™ have decades of experience in the organization and planning industries and have worked with hundreds of families.

Protect everything that matters

Keep track of your parents’ important documents, including their wills, trust details, healthcare directives, power of attorney, and investments.

Trustworthy will help your parents prepare their estate

We’ll match your parents with a Trustworthy Certified Expert™, a real person, in their city who will help them organize their estate with the award-winning Family Operating System®.

Secure & private

256-bit AES encryption, two-factor authentication, and HIPAA and SOC 3 compliance mean your parents’ information is protected.

Collaborative

You can collaborate with your parents and their advisors so that everyone has access to the right information at the right time.

Service included

Our Trustworthy Certified Experts™ have decades of experience in the organization and planning industries and have worked with hundreds of families.

Protect everything that matters

Keep track of your parents’ important documents, including their wills, trust details, healthcare directives, power of attorney, and investments.

Trustworthy will help your parents prepare their estate

We’ll match your parents with a Trustworthy Certified Expert™, a real person, in their city who will help them organize their estate with the award-winning Family Operating System®.

Secure & private

256-bit AES encryption, two-factor authentication, and HIPAA and SOC 3 compliance mean your parents’ information is protected.

Collaborative

You can collaborate with your parents and their advisors so that everyone has access to the right information at the right time.

Service included

Our Trustworthy Certified Experts™ have decades of experience in the organization and planning industries and have worked with hundreds of families.

Protect everything that matters

Keep track of your parents’ important documents, including their wills, trust details, healthcare directives, power of attorney, and investments.

Trustworthy will help your parents prepare their estate

We’ll match your parents with a Trustworthy Certified Expert™, a real person, in their city who will help them organize their estate with the award-winning Family Operating System®.

Secure & private

256-bit AES encryption, two-factor authentication, and HIPAA and SOC 3 compliance mean your parents’ information is protected.

Collaborative

You can collaborate with your parents and their advisors so that everyone has access to the right information at the right time.

Service included

Our Trustworthy Certified Experts™ have decades of experience in the organization and planning industries and have worked with hundreds of families.

Protect everything that matters

Keep track of your parents’ important documents, including their wills, trust details, healthcare directives, power of attorney, and investments.

Legal Tools to Protect Your Elderly Parents

It is crucial to have a few essential legal documents in place when helping your parents later in life. Some of these documents can be created online for free, though many people find it extremely helpful to enlist a lawyer’s assistance.

Once your parents or their professionals have completed their legal documents, you can store copies of them in Trustworthy for easy access.

Here are the legal documents that should be top of mind:

Power of Attorney

A power of attorney document allows you to act on your parents’ behalf. It’s a powerful legal tool that comes in various forms.

Healthcare Power of Attorney

Also called a healthcare proxy, this document allows you to make medical care decisions for your parents when they become unable to make those decisions themselves.

Financial Power of Attorney

A financial power of attorney legally authorizes you to manage the legal and financial obligations of your parents, like signing their checks, depositing Social Security checks, and managing their investments. It becomes effective only if your parents are unable to handle these responsibilities themselves, and you are expected to carry out their wishes to the best of your ability.

Financial powers of attorney (FPOAs) can be general, limited, or durable, and understanding these differences is important.

General Power of Attorney 

General power of attorney conveys broad legal authority. With a general POA, you’ll be able to handle all your parents’ legal and financial matters.

Limited Power of Attorney 

Limited POAs allow you to act on behalf of your parents only in a specific capacity or for a finite amount of time. (For instance, your parents could authorize you to sell their house.) 

Durable Power of Attorney 

Unlike other types of POAs, a durable power of attorney doesn't automatically end if your parents become physically or mentally incapacitated. A DPOA allows you to continue acting as your parents' agent in the event of a health crisis. That said, it allows you only to make financial decisions for them, not medical decisions. 

POAs are accepted in all U.S. states, but the rules and requirements may differ in each. Make sure you know the options available to your parents in the state where they live.

Living Trust 

This estate planning tool allows you or another designated trustee to manage your parent’s assets and transfer them to beneficiaries after their death. But unlike a will, which wouldn’t go into effect until after your parents pass away, a living trust is immediately effective.

To be covered by the terms of a living trust, assets must be assigned to it. That can include:

  • Personal property (like jewelry, artwork, or antiques).

  • Financial accounts (like checking and savings accounts, life insurance policies, and safe deposit boxes).

  • Real estate (like land, homes, and commercial properties)

One asset that shouldn’t go in a living trust? A 401(k) or IRA. Changing the ownership structure of either of those accounts will flag it to the IRS as an early withdrawal, triggering a tax bill and a possible financial penalty.

Like powers of attorney (POAs), there are different types of living trusts. The two terms you'll need to know are "revocable" and "irrevocable."

A revocable living trust is often the most common. In this format, your parents (also known as the grantors) maintain control over all the assets they place in the trust by designating themselves as the trustees. In this role, they have the power to change the rules of the trust at any time. Only when they become unable to manage or protect their assets will you, or another designated successor trustee, step in.

An irrevocable living trust establishes the trust itself as the owner of the assets. As the grantors, your parents would need to give up certain rights of control. You, or another trusted family member designated as the trustee, would become the lawful owner of the items placed in the trust. 

Living Will 

This type of advance directive allows your parents to think about the end-of-life care they would like. What treatments would they prefer if they permanently lose consciousness? What would they choose to happen if their death is unavoidable?

Trustworthy's easy-to-use software and personalized service help get your aging parents' affairs organized.

Let our experts help your parents with their end-of-life planning

Trustworthy's easy-to-use software and personalized service help get your aging parents' affairs organized.

Let our experts help your parents with their end-of-life planning

Trustworthy's easy-to-use software and personalized service help get your aging parents' affairs organized.

Let our experts help your parents with their end-of-life planning

Trustworthy's easy-to-use software and personalized service help get your aging parents' affairs organized.

Let our experts help your parents with their end-of-life planning

Some treatments that can be specified in living wills include:

  • Whether your parents want to use equipment like a dialysis machine or ventilator to keep them alive.

  • Whether they want fluids administered by IV or feeding tube if they are unable to eat or drink on their own.

  • Whether they want treatment for pain, nausea, or other symptoms (e.g., palliative care) if they can't make these decisions on their own.

  • Whether they want "do not resuscitate" (DNR) orders, meaning CPR will not be used if their breathing or heartbeat stops.

  • Whether they want to donate their organs or other tissues after death.

Living will laws differ from state to state. If your parents spend time in more than one location, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with laws in both areas. Some states stipulate how often living wills need to be updated, so take note of that as well. The Mayo Clinic recommends that people revisit their living wills every 10 years to ensure the documents still reflect their wishes.

Last Will and Testament

Here’s the legal document you’re probably most familiar with, at least in name. A will allows the “testator” (in this case, your parents) to decide how their estate will be managed after death.

Don’t let the word “estate” intimidate you. Even if your parents don’t own a lot of monetary assets, a will can consider other items of importance to them — like who will take care of their beloved cat or which family member gets their cherished grandfather clock. It can also empower an executor to pay off debts.

Urge each of your parents to draft their own will, since a number of states do not recognize joint wills. If they need encouragement to draft these documents, you might explain that if they pass on without them, their belongings will be disbursed according to the laws of the state where they live. This process, called probate, can be time-consuming, not to mention stressful for remaining family members. (Especially if that aforementioned cat is involved.)

Experts Who Can Help

The good news? There’s a lot you can do to help your aging parents. Even better? You don’t have to do it all alone. Many experts and organizations are available to support you as you make arrangements and get their financial and legal matters in order.

For instance:

  • Trustworthy Certified Experts™ are highly trained and experienced in estate organization. They provide personalized service and professional acumen to help get everything in order.

  • USAging is a national association that spearheads a network of local Agencies on Aging that develop, coordinate, and deliver a range of services for older people (like a money management program that can help with bill paying). They can connect you to an organization in your parents’ area.

Tips for Caring for Elderly Parents

The majority of Americans live well into their 70s — and many happily live decades past that. As time goes by, you can expect your role as your aging parents’ protector to change and perhaps become more complex.

Here are some things you can do to minimize your stress as your elderly parents’ financial and legal caregiver.

Be Patient

We all need time to get used to change. Let your aging parents know that by accepting your help, they’re actually helping you. A recent study found that reframing things this way can actually make it easier for aging people to relinquish some control.

Keep Records

If you have power of attorney for your parents, you’re required by law to keep detailed records. Consider sharing them with other trusted family members, since being transparent — and keeping others up to date — can help minimize family friction.

Don’t Try to Do Everything Yourself

Use the resources you have at your disposal. It can be hard to ask for help, but consider delegating some tasks to family members, asking friends to refer you to a lawyer or financial advisor, or setting boundaries or practicing self-care when you’re starting to feel overwhelmed. 

Trustworthy can help. Once you gather all these important documents to help your aging parents, you’ll need one safe place to store them all — and have them at the ready. 

Try Trustworthy today.

Try Trustworthy today.

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Trustworthy Certified Experts™ help your aging parents get their lives in order

Trustworthy Certified Experts™ help your aging parents get their lives in order

Trustworthy Certified Experts™ help your aging parents get their lives in order