Measures to prepare you and loved ones for the unexpected
Caring for a loved one can bring emotional and financial stress
Make sure important documents are in place to authorize trusted people to step in
Understand their financial situation before you need to step in
Family members often turn into unpaid caregivers for loved ones seemingly overnight, unprepared for the emotional and financial stress of caring for a family member. Whether it’s discovering an elderly parent who’s struggling to care for him- or herself alone or dealing with a serious diagnosis, it’s a game-changer to have a care plan in place ahead of time.
Here’s a checklist of proactive measures to develop a care plan.
Assign trusted contacts
Most financial institutions allow account holders to name a trusted contact to call in certain situations, like when an account holder is not replying to communications, unusual activities, or other red flags.
Naming a trusted contact(s) should be your first line of defense. Even though this person does not have the power to instruct transactions or make any financial decisions on the account(s), they can receive duplicate statements and help identify any potential problems.
Power of Attorney (Health & Financial)
While living, a power of attorney can be used to grant someone the authority to make decisions about your personal affairs if you are away or incapacitated. A power of attorney can be granted for one’s health care and/or financial affairs.
Will or Trust
A will is a legal document that expresses your last wishes for the distribution of your property and personal assets. A will does not avoid probate court but will help the court process go smoothly, saving time and money.
A trust is a legal three-party fiduciary agreement that allows the first party creating the trust (the Settlor, also may be referenced as Trustor or Grantor) to give the second party (the Trustee) rights to hold assets and property on behalf of and for the benefit of the third party (the Beneficiary).
A trust can also provide additional benefits such as avoiding probate court, including stipulations on inheritance, and creditor protection to beneficiaries.
Account Registration/Asset Review
Account titles and beneficiary designations are also a key part of an estate plan. You should make sure that assets are owned in the proper structures (e.g. trust vs. individual name) and make sure that beneficiary designations (investment accounts and insurance policies) are aligned with the will.
As part of the asset review, look for opportunities to consolidate accounts where it makes sense. For example, if they have an IRA at three different institutions, consolidating assets into a single IRA would make it easier to manage, keep track of, and transition to beneficiaries.
Understand cash flow/budget
It’s important to have an understanding of the financial dynamics before needing to step in. Be proactive in getting a clear view of the entire financial picture:
Income sources (cash, social security, pensions, disability/LTC benefits)
Investments (non-retirement, IRAs, Roth IRAs, Annuities, Health Savings Accounts)
Health insurance/Medicare coverage
Expenses (essentials and discretionary)
Plan for spending gaps
Knowing any financial gaps in advance will allow you to research which account(s) to use or if this is a financial obligation that you can afford to support (in the event that there are little or no assets).
While Medicare can be someone’s primary form of health insurance, many things are not covered – most notably long-term care services. A long-term care insurance policy should be considered as a safety net for big, unexpected expenses.
Credit report freeze
As we get older, we are less likely to need new financial accounts or loans. A relatively quick and very effective protection measure is applying a credit freeze on credit reports. This will prevent new financial accounts and loans from being opened under someone’s social security number. This can be done with a call to each of the three major credit bureaus – Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian.
With practically everything requiring a digital experience, consider cybersecurity solutions to protect digital footprints. Your first line of defense can be antivirus software for computers and tools to help manage online profile passwords.
Stepping up to care for loved ones is very noble, but it comes with a variety of stresses. Being proactive with understanding their situation and addressing any gaps in their plans can relieve a lot of that stress – on you and on them.
As a client, we’re here to help you, and your family is an extension of you. If this is something you’d like to discuss, I’m always here.
Frank Iozzo, CPWA®
President, Private Wealth Advisor