Vail Valley personal finance: Work with aging relatives now |

Vail Valley personal finance: Work with aging relatives now

Patricia French
Vail, CO, Colorado

Each year, thousands of Americans are thrust into the uncomfortable role of making financial and care decisions for their senior family members or untangling the financial records of that family member. The task can be time-consuming, expensive and stressful for those unprepared for this responsibility.

Fortunately, there is a simple remedy to reducing the stress connected to these crises – communication. By informing loved ones, in advance, of the location of your key financial documents as well as your care directives and wishes, you can greatly reduce the stress that your loved ones face in dealing with your illness, disability or death.

While raising the subject may create some momentary awkwardness for both parents and their adult children, it is far better for seniors to inform their children about their wishes in advance of a care crisis than to force them to guess what “mom or dad would have wanted.”

Clear communication can also eliminate the problem of not passing assets to one’s adult children because they were never aware the asset (or financial account or contract) existed. Spelling out the location of these accounts, as well as your care wishes, ensures that your loved ones have the information they need to provide for your care or handle your estate.

A financial and care inventory can help your loved ones carry on in the event of your incapacitation or death. It provides loved ones with a roadmap to critical information. It is focused on the “where,” not the “what,” of your financial holdings. The inventory is not a legal document, and it need not divulge personal or confidential details that you are not prepared to share. It should, however, enable your loved ones to quickly locate your financial, legal, care and legacy records should a crisis occur.

This inventory should be updated at least annually, and copies should be given to your loved ones, lawyer or executor – or placed in a secure location where your loved ones can find it.

While each family’s inventory will differ, the inventory should include information related to where your loved ones can find the following:

• Living wills/health care directives

• Insurance contracts (health, life, long-term care, annuities, auto, homeowners, etc.).

• Wills, trusts and deeds.

• Bank accounts and investments/investment accounts.

• Credit card accounts and outstanding debt.

• Contact information for lawyers, accountants, brokers, agents.

• Jewelry and other valuables.

• Essential keys.

• Instructions related to funeral arrangements.

• Personal instructions or messages.

• Location of birth, marriage and military discharge certificates

• Information related to charitable gifts.

By providing your family members with this information prior to a crisis, you can eliminate a great deal of potential stress. What better gift can you give to your loved ones than communicating this knowledge in order to provide a sense of comfort in the midst of life’s uncertainties and troubles?

Patricia French is a Certified Financial Planner with Thrivent Financial for Lutherans serving Eagle and Summit counties and can be reached at 970-926-0251. Thrivent Financial for Lutherans is a Fortune 500 financial services membership organization helping nearly 3 million members achieve their financial goals and give back to their communities.

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