Letitia Berbaum AIF is COO & Partner at The Zandbergen Group, specializing in wealth management for families, widowers, and entrepreneurs.
Recently, I’ve found myself and many of my clients watching our parents age. Along with that, we’ve seen the struggle that can ensue when they are trying to manage their affairs. If your parents are beginning to need a little more support around the house like mine are, you might also want to think about who is managing their finances and what support they may need around their financial estate.
For many people, finances can be a taboo topic that’s rarely discussed within the family or throughout childhood. This can lead to a lot of anxiety in adulthood if your aging parents need help managing their financial ecosystem but you don’t know how to talk to them about it. Helping your parents manage their finances becomes all the more difficult when you don’t know where to find bank statements, or how to access their electric account to pay the bill and ensure the lights stay on.
If starting this conversation is giving you anxiety, I have a few tips to slowly bridge the gap so you can open up the conversation about money and help those you care about to become as financially fit as possible.
Gather Everything In One Place
An important early step to take on this journey is to gather all of the information that’s part of their financial ecosystem in one central location. Whether you’re doing this for your parents or yourself and future caregivers, the goal is to make it easy for someone to take over financial management and be prepared for the unexpected. I like to call this a “True Wealth Financial Binder.”
A True Wealth Financial Binder should include everything within a person’s financial sphere and act as a complete and comprehensive resource covering their assets and liabilities.
This process allows you to be prepared now, instead of having to react later. For example, if your parents need medical assistance in order to remain in their home, how do they plan to pay for that care? Their True Wealth Financial Binder could provide that answer, whether it be a savings account or insurance.
Some of the items that you want to consider including in this binder are:
- All current financial investment statements, such as:
- End bank statements for checking and savings accounts
- A list of any CDs or bonds
- Individually held stocks
- Year-end investment statements
- Retirement account statements
- Pension statements
- Insurance statements
- Any estate planning documents (will, trust information, powers of attorney)
- End-of-life wishes
- A list of all assets (This doesn’t have to include the value of the assets, just a list of what they are and where they’re located.)
- Safety deposit box access instructions
- Locations of passwords and other confidential information
- List of key advisors’ names, including financial advisors, bankers, accountants and attorneys
Including liability statements for:
- Lines of credit
- Credit cards
- Auto loans
- Notes receivable and payable
- Most recent tax return
This is a resource you and your parents can put together independently, and of course, it is a tool their financial planner can help with, as well. I recommend that the True Wealth Financial Binder is updated regularly, ideally annually, or when any significant change occurs with their finances.
While end-of-life and finances can be a sensitive subject, putting together this binder is an act of love. It makes the process of taking over someone else’s estate easier during what can be an emotionally and financially challenging time.
Use The True Wealth Financial Binder To Open Dialogue
Putting together a True Wealth Financial Binder is a great exercise for cataloging all assets and ensuring there’s a plan for each of those assets. If you’re working with your parents to create their True Wealth Financial Binder, focus on gathering information that will be useful later when they need support and not the value of the assets.
Use the idea of putting together the True Wealth Financial Binder as a way to open dialogue around the topic and how you can best support them as they age. Involving your parents in the binder preparation process can make the process feel collaborative instead of nosy or accusatory.
When discussing what should go into your parents’ True Wealth Financial Binder, be sure to ask about their insurance policies and check who is listed as the beneficiary on all financial assets. This includes insurance policies as well as bank and investment accounts. This information can get lost or change internally over time, so it’s good to regularly check or update account beneficiary information.
Having the correct account beneficiary information will simplify the process of settling their estate and ensuring that the account passes to the person or entity they want it to.
Get Acquainted With Your Loved Ones’ Financial Team
During the discovery process of putting together your parents’ True Wealth Financial Binder, you may find that their financial advisors have retired or will retire soon. This is an opportunity to work together to find new financial advisors that can support this process.
If you already have a financial team that you like, you can introduce your parents to your financial team during this process. No one has to share any numbers or specific information, but let your family get to know the financial people on your team and why you like working with them. Having everyone get to know each other can make the process smoother and easier when you have to take over making financial decisions about their assets.
Once it’s put together, make sure to review the binder with a financial team as soon as possible. Maybe they can provide your parents with some updated information or guidance to make sure that everything looks like it’s on track. Making decisions in the midst of grief is much harder when the information is new or unknown.
The conversations you have with your family now set the tone for how comfortable they’ll feel turning over the management of their money and assets to you when they no longer can. Introducing them to your financial team and putting together a True Wealth Financial Binder that you can review together makes it more likely that they’ll continue to involve you in financial decisions later on when they’re less able to make those decisions alone.
The information provided here is not investment, tax or financial advice. You should consult with a licensed professional for advice concerning your specific situation.
The Zandbergen Group is a DBA of Axxcess Wealth Management, LLC a Registered Investment Advisor with the SEC.