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March 21, 2017

Tips for Helping an Elderly Relative Pay Bills

Many people worry about the ability of aging parents or relatives to handle money and financial affairs. With the aging population growing so quickly, it’s a situation that will only become more common. When elderly people cannot handle their daily finances, the consequences can be damaging to their current and future financial state. Here are a few options to consider if you find yourself observing your relative and believe they need help paying bills.

Look for signs your parent or elderly relative needs help

For people whose parents seem more unsure than they used to be, gently ask questions, like, “The economy is rough on everyone these days – are you able to pay all of your bills?” or “Do you have enough to live on?” Be sensitive when you ask questions, as many older people are embarrassed by their inability to handle their financial affairs. They may be afraid of losing control of their money along with their independence.

Set up automatic bill paying

Take a look around their home.  Do you see lots of unopened mail, bills scattered around, or piles of papers? You can ease the bill paying burden by helping them set up electronic automatic payments for monthly bills. However, you should review the bills to ensure they are accurate. There are also third-party bill paying services and elder care advisors that specialize in paying bills for the elderly.

Limit potential trouble with a financial power of attorney

Discuss the idea of seeing a lawyer and setting up a power of attorney. Elderly relatives might naturally resist the idea, but it doesn’t have to be set up so that you make all financial decisions. For example, they can add you as an authorized signer to a checking or savings account, without making you a joint owner.

A power of attorney can limit the agent’s authority to only certain actions, such as paying monthly bills. Or you could set it up so that you receive power of attorney only if a doctor agrees it’s time for you to make the financial decisions.

They may be mentally sharp, but still need assistance

Although your relative’s mental capacity may still be sharp, there may be some physical impairments that prohibit them from handling their finances. For example, if you have a parent that can no longer drive, has difficulty writing, or has visual impairments. In some cases, the relative has lost a spouse who handled all of the finances and needs assistance taking over the daunting task.

Keep them involved in the bill paying process for as long as possible

It may be easier and faster for you to handle everything, but it will help your relative’s morale if he or she still has a hand in making some decisions, assuming you can do it in a way that promotes bonding time and alleviates stress.

Talking to an elderly relative about handling their finances can be a sensitive subject. Contact an Anders advisor to find out how we can help.

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