Thursday, January 24, 2013

Should I take over my elderly parent’s finances now that they are moving into a Senior Facility?

By Bob Gregory

Moving to a Senior Facility such as an Assisted Living Facility or a Nursing Home will cause anxieties for your elderly parent and it will also create a few for you as well!  I’m often asked if it is advisable to take over managing an elderly parent’s finances when they move to a Senior Facility and I usually give the same answer—I don’t know, do they need your help?  The move to a Senior Facility does not necessarily mean your parent can no longer handle their own finances, especially if they were handling them competently prior to the move.  If your parent is doing fine with their finances, then they should continue after the move but if they are struggling with their finances, then you should offer to help.

Investment account - bank error in your favor 02
Investment account - bank error in your favor (Photo credit: George Morris)
I was helping my mother long before she moved to an Assisted Living Facility, but only as an advisor regarding investments, credit and basic bookkeeping.  This allowed me to monitor her finances without interfering and help ensure she did not get into trouble or fall victim to scams.  I was fortunate when she realized she could no longer manage her own finances and asked me to take over.  I knew she needed help when bills were paid late or double paid and her checkbook had very few entries.  She also began transferring large sums of money to her checking account fearing she would not have enough money to pay bills.  A candid discussion regarding the “state” of her finances convinced her to let me handle the bills and checking. 

If your parent is competent and not having any issues then you should just monitor and keep an open line of communication so you can step if you are needed.  But, if your parent seems to be struggling financially or just keeping up with the paper work, then you may need to provide assistance.

Here are some ideas to get you started:  

  1. Start with a conversation with your parent regarding the cost of the Senior Facility and their ability to pay prior to the move.  This will give you some insight into how your parent is doing financially if you do not already know.  It will also show you are concerned for their welfare.  Be respectful and try to avoid accusing them of being incompetent or incapable even if it is true.
  2. Discuss legal documents your parent will need to have in place prior to the move.  In a previous post ( I gave you a few documents your parent will need for medical care, but you should also have a durable power of attorney that will allow you to act on your parent’s 
    Finance (Photo credit: Tax Credits)
     ehalf to make financial decisions if they are not able.  This is the perfect opportunity to ask your parent to disclose their finances to you so you can be prepared in the event you have to step in.
  3. A move to a Senior Facility will usually mean “down sizing” for your parent so offer to store their financial records for them.  Security is another reason to store records as most residents of a Senior Facility go in and out of their living quarters and do not lock the door if they are going to remain within the facility.  You should also suggest consolidating accounts and canceling certain credit cards.  My mother had a credit card from every department store she ever shopped and I managed to get it down to one MasterCard with a very low credit limit!
  4.  Offer to create a document to list all of your parent’s financial assets and credit facilities to go along with the durable power of attorney.  This is another opportunity to get access without being forceful.
  5. Offer to create on-line accounts for your parent’s bank accounts, investment accounts and credit cards so that you can have access without physical position of the financial instruments.  This will allow you to monitor if your parent refuses to turn over the finances to you.
  6. If your parent is adamant about maintaining control, then offer to be a “second set of eyes” to check behind them for errors.  We can all use that kind of help!
  7. Finally, offer to bring in a financial advisor to discuss the transition and future financial needs.  Often and “outsider” can make better headway and get your goal accomplished!
Credit cards Français : Cartes de crédit Itali...
Credit cards:  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If none of these accomplishes your goal then here are a few suggestions to help you safe guard your parent:
  1. Suggest a two signature requirement for checks written for amounts over a certain dollar limit you and your parent determine to help avoid potential theft if checks are stolen.
  2. Ask your parent to allow you to lock up credit cards at your home or in a safe deposit at your parent’s bank.  Suggest they keep one credit card with a low limit to help safeguard against theft.
  3. Offer to pay bills from a second bank account that your parent funds and also store financial records at your home.  This can save storage space in your parent’s new living quarters and again, safeguard against potential theft of personal information.
  4. Offer to meet monthly to discuss finances or to “help” with bookkeeping.  Your parent will most likely be receptive to any type of a meeting as an opportunity to see you more often!

If you have siblings, I suggest you involve them in any planning and discussions regarding your parent’s finances.  Keep them informed for their peace of mind as well as keeping your activities regarding finances very transparent—especially if large sums of money are involved.  If you take over investment accounts, keep in mind your parent is in a very different stage of their life and you need to conserve principle and not try to build your future inheritance!  Finally, do not get too many chefs in the kitchen.  Make sure one person is in charge of your parent’s finances and avoid managing by committee with siblings.

If you find you need an Assisted Living Facility, Nursing Home or any other type of Senior Facility, I hope you will consider To learn more about our services, please visit 

If you would like to contribute your thoughts and ideas, please leave them in our comment section. We want to hear them. Helping people care for themselves or their loved ones is what we care about. 

We look forward to reading yours.

Bob Gregory is an advocate for Seniors and is one of the founders of At, we are dedicated to helping families get the Elder Care help they need without having to provide their personal information! If find you need an assisted living facility or other type of senior facility, please consider
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