How to Discuss Your Parents’ Finances with Your Siblings

How to Discuss Your Parents’ Finances with Your Siblings

The ability to age in place has become a more viable option over the years as more services become available to help elderly parents live independently yet safely. From home care services to transportation to bill paying services, the options to provide assistance to aging parents continues to grow. The challenge is overlooking the bigger picture of your parents’ finances as they age; complicated if you must involve your siblings in the efforts as well. Here are some suggestions on how to discuss your parents’ finances with your siblings.

Getting everyone on the same page

One of the challenges about being a caregiver is coordinating care for a parent when you have siblings. While it can be helpful to have other family members who can pitch in and help, the reality is that siblings don’t always work together to provide care for a parent. Complicate that situation with discussions about money, and it can be downright stressful! The first step to handling this is to make sure you and your involved siblings agree on a common goal for your parents’ finances and how they are handled. To do that, it’s important that all siblings have a complete picture of your parents’ financial situation so they can more effectively participate. Here are a few items that should be discussed in order to establish a common goal:

  • Where do your parents bank?
  • Do they have a financial advisor?
  • Do they have a CPA?
  • Does everyone have a clear picture of their full financial situation, including investments, pensions, Social Security, etc.?
  • What bills do they have monthly, quarterly, and annually?
  • How are bills currently being handled?

Once everyone has a complete financial picture (this will likely involve a few calls and exchanged emails with your parents’ financial advisor and CPA if they have one), it’s easier to establish a common goal for their financial future.

Understanding banking options and who has access

It’s important that there’s agreement regarding who has access to bank accounts. While it could be a shared responsibility, multiple siblings with access to banking funds can make for “too many cooks in the kitchen.” It may be wise to assign one person to be the primary person when it comes to banking transactions and have them provide complete transparency about and withdrawals or transfers within the account. Getting added to the basic checking and savings accounts can be a simple way to handle day to day transactions and pull statements as needed.

Look at investments with fresh eyes

While it can be a difficult conversation, it’s a good idea for siblings to not only know what investments are out there, but to review them with fresh eyes. A group consultation with your parents’ financial advisor is a great idea; if for whatever reason they don’t use an advisor, make it a priority for everyone to review and agree on how the portfolio is being managed. Discuss if investments are balanced or too aggressive. It’s common for older people to let their investments stay as they are over the years with little change. Understand that when it comes to investing, individuals have different approaches, so be prepared for one or more siblings to argue for different financial products, getting more or less aggressive, or even trying to handle the investment management themselves. Unless one of the siblings is a certified financial advisor, this can be a bad idea. Take a step back and get an understanding of your parents’ life expectancy, financial demands as they age, and how their investments will support that. Agreeing on a financial advisor to give you counsel is a good idea to avoid difficult conversations.

Handling the oversight of bill paying

Whether a parent’s decline was gradual or sudden, chances are that bill paying has suffered from the changed circumstance. Bill paying is a tedious task for anyone, more so for the elderly. While it doesn’t make sense to get group consensus before every bill gets paid, it’s a good idea to get a full picture of all bills due; from one-time to annually to quarterly to monthly. Ideally, the person with access to bank accounts should be responsible for bill paying, but there are other options to ensure smooth, timely bill paying with full transparency for all stakeholders. Using a professional bill management service like Bill Simplicity facilitates timely payments of all bills, monthly reporting of all transactions, and the ability for anyone with permissions to be able to log in and see activities at any time. This can make ongoing discussions with siblings about finances much easier! Access and transparency are only a few of the benefits a bill management service can provide.

Having financial discussions of any kind can be challenging. Throw in the family dynamics and overall concern for aging parents, and those discussions can decline rapidly. Having a plan in place, a common goal, identified responsible siblings for tasks, and an overall plan can help make the situation easier.

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