It’s also important to include other family members, like your siblings, in-laws and children, to reach a consensus so there are no misunderstandings about who’s responsible for what, and what your parents’ wishes are for housing and critical care decisions. Naming someone who will take on responsibility for making decisions if someone is incapacitated – well before that ever happens – can bring enormous peace of mind if the day comes that a parent is unable to care for themselves or make decisions.
Levels of authorization
- Trusted contact – notification only, no authority to act
- Authorization to share – ability to share information, but not act
- Third-party notification – used by insurance companies
- Authorized signatory – used by banks and credit unions
- Durable Power of Attorney agent – authority to act
- Medical Directive agent – authority to act
- Successor trustee – authority to act
And if that day doesn’t come for a long time, or indeed never comes at all, you still want to have a plan in place for the more mundane or everyday responsibilities: Who’s going to attend medical appointments with the aging parent and keep an eye on prescriptions and insurance paperwork? Who’s going to help with food, clothing and housekeeping if needed?
Another thing to keep in mind as you discuss this topic with your family: We are on the verge of the largest wealth transfer in history from baby boomers to their Generation X and millennial children. Yet most people haven’t talked to their parents about their financial situations. So is there someone else you should bring into this intergenerational conversation? That’s right – a financial planner who can work with you, your parents and the whole family to help make sure you’re asking the right questions and to help you build out a strategy designed for preserving and protecting the family legacy for generations.