Just lost my father (age 60). Questions to begin helping my Mom (age 61).

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rhatfiel
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Just lost my father (age 60). Questions to begin helping my Mom (age 61).

Post by rhatfiel »

I lost my father a couple weeks ago unexpectedly. He was 60 and took care of all of the finances for my Mom who is age 61. I’m quite confident in my understanding of finances, taxes, retirement planning, investments, etc. in my own life, but my Mom is not given Dad took care of it all, and I honestly just have not researched all of the considerations she has for her time in life since they have not been applicable to me yet. I’ve searched the forum, and with all I’m trying to look into for her at the moment, it’s a bit overwhelming, so I thought I’d post a few questions should it help fellow bogleheaders to point me in the right direction. Thanks in advance:

1) We have an appointment with social security the end of March. From my limited understanding so far, she can’t claim survivor benefits and her own benefits at the same time. With her being 61, could she start taking SS at age 62 and effectively defer her benefits as a survivor to my Dad until she’s older and can maximize his benefit, which is considerably more than her own? At what age are the different benefit payouts?

2) I will post a follow-up portfolio review once I get my arms wrapped around her current positions, but is there a good resource for various strategies and portfolio allocations for someone age 61 who ideally would like to retire in the next 1-2 years? I feel very confident in my own allocation at age 37 from all of the learning this forum has provided me, and I’m trying to get a crash course in what may be better suited for her and her point in life.

3) Financial advisors / planners. I have not used one and I know bogleheads’ position here, but for her we will at least me initially meeting with the investments advisor that holds inherited IRAs and stocks from my Dad’s parents who my Dad worked with, and we may also meet with a Financial Advisor that a friend recommended to her. Any advice on what to dig into with these professionals to make sure I can help my Mom vet them appropriately, even if we are looking at using one in the short term? Other advice here?

4) Credit cards and car loan…some credit cards are just in my Dad’s name and some are joint. I believe the one’s in just his name will need to be closed out and the joint we can transfer to sole ownership under her. Correct me if I am wrong or if there are other considerations. They recently bought a new car, and the car loan is in my Dad’s name. Can she assume the car loan in her name if we go to the BMV and file a transfer on death? State is Ohio.

5) I’d like to get my mom a book or two on finances and investments. Think a primer on this stuff. She’s a smart woman, but just hasn’t had to manage any of this. I’m thinking it would help her feel more confident as I am helping her with decisions she needs to make and to help educate her, which I know she wants. Any suggestions here?

6) any other advice or suggested reading?
Last edited by rhatfiel on Mon Feb 12, 2024 6:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
billfromct
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Re: Just lost my father (age 60). Questions to begin helping my Mom (age 61).

Post by billfromct »

First you want to document all financial assets & liabilities in order to figure out what you want to do with them.

You don’t specifically say if your mom is working but I assume that she is not working. If she is working & takes SS, part of the SS benefit will be “clawed” back if she makes over $22,320 in 2024 & under full retirement age, which is probably 67 for her. The “claw back” amount is adjusted back into her SS benefit once she reaches her full retirement age but I don’t know about how that would work administratively.

If she is not working, she could take her own reduced SS benefit at age 62 (I believe 70% of her full retirement age benefit) then take SS survivor benefits at her full retirement age, probably 67. If she takes SS survivor benefits before her full retirement age, her SS survivor benefits will be reduced for life.

This should all be explained at your meeting with SS.

bill
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skipper
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Re: Just lost my father (age 60). Questions to begin helping my Mom (age 61).

Post by skipper »

For the last few years, I've been preparing for our daughter to do what you're doing. Our situation is exactly as you describe, except we're a few years away from those ages and I want to make things easy for her and my wife.

1) I simulated your situation using our own values in opensocialsecurity.com. The recommendation for maximum benefit is mom files for survivor benefits now or retroactively to the DOD then files for her own benefit at age 70. Since he was the higher earner and never filed, her maximum annual benefit never gets bigger than it is today. You should play with this tool to enter their information (date of births, PIAs, etc.) before going to the meeting. Bonus points if you already have Social Security statements for both spouses. Get a copy of Mike Piper's Social Security Made Simple if it makes you feel better to learn about all the options; I did, but every option is still available to us. As life progresses, the options dwindle and the answer becomes more clear; this may be the case for your mom. It is still a worthwhile investment and should make you more comfortable and prepared for the meeting.

2&3) It may take awhile to unravel the financial background and come up with a replacement plan that's suitable for mom. I'm going to defer these to #5 below.

4) I think you may be right on both; CCs for sure, iffy on the loan situation, which might require a credit check on mom, a new loan, etc. I'm providing for and advising mine to pay off the car loan immediately and be done with it.

5) The three books I have that are useful so far are Get Your Ducks in a Row by Harry Margolis, Control Your Retirement Destiny by Dana Anspach, and After the Death of Your Spouse by Mike Piper. Especially the Anspach and Piper books; I'm not sure you can do better for figuring out mom's retirement strategy and getting started with the unraveling I mentioned above. It might be a little late for Ducks, BUT it might help you find/locate/understand some of the things that dad left behind and that mom needs to prepare for herself (and you) going forward. It helped me tremendously.

6) An easy recommendation is to spend time in the wiki and the search feature.
by Hyperchicken » Tue Feb 13, 2024 2:28 pm | | ... Dang. That rat and pellet thing is pretty depressing. | Guess I better get back to work.
exodusNH
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Re: Just lost my father (age 60). Questions to begin helping my Mom (age 61).

Post by exodusNH »

rhatfiel wrote: Mon Feb 12, 2024 4:53 am I lost my father a couple weeks ago unexpectedly. He was 60
I'm sorry. That's so young.
rhatfiel wrote: Mon Feb 12, 2024 4:53 am They recently bought a new car, and the car loan is in my Dad’s name. Can she assume the car loan in her name if we go to the BMV and file a transfer on death? State is Ohio.
You'll have to review the loan paperwork. Unlike a mortgage, there is no automatic provision to allow a family member to assume an existing loan. Continue making regular payments for now.
InMyDreams
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Re: Just lost my father (age 60). Questions to begin helping my Mom (age 61).

Post by InMyDreams »

rhatfiel wrote: Mon Feb 12, 2024 4:53 am
5) I’d like to get my mom a book or two on finances and investments. Think a primer on this stuff. She’s a smart woman, but just hasn’t had to manage any of this. I’m thinking it would help her feel more confident as I am helping her with decisions she needs to make and to help educate her, which I know she wants. Any suggestions here?

6) any other advice or suggested reading?
After the Death of YOur Spouse, by Mike Piper (a BHer) has been suggested on BH before.

General FP/Retirement planning, I liked Jane Bryant Quinn's How to Make Your Money Last
https://www.amazon.com/Make-Your-Money- ... 1982115831

Taxes - if he did his own taxes, locate his previous years' returns. They'll guide you for this year, and will give you places to look for accounts, etc. If the loss was in 2024, she will be able to file MFJ for 2024.
cadreamer2015
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Re: Just lost my father (age 60). Questions to begin helping my Mom (age 61).

Post by cadreamer2015 »

I'm so sorry for your loss. It is really good that you are able to help your Mom.

It's probably a good idea not to make major financial or other life moves immediately. The wiki counsels this after a windfall and it is probably just as important after the death of a spouse.

Be aware that many/most "financial advisors" are really salespeople who are likely to pitch things like annuities, life insurance or other high fee financial products. You may need to speak to whoever is managing the existing investments to understand the workings of any beneficiary designations, etc. But I would only take serious financial advice from a fee-only financial advisor. It would be very good if you could go with your Mom to any in-person meetings or listen in to any phone meetings to help her understand her options and not get pressured into inappropriate investments.

Longer term, it will be important to understand what your Mom's living expenses will be currently and in retirement. But that is information you can help gather over the next several months.
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Swampy
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Re: Just lost my father (age 60). Questions to begin helping my Mom (age 61).

Post by Swampy »

cadreamer2015 wrote: Mon Feb 12, 2024 9:35 am I'm so sorry for your loss. It is really good that you are able to help your Mom.

It's probably a good idea not to make major financial or other life moves immediately. The wiki counsels this after a windfall and it is probably just as important after the death of a spouse.

Be aware that many/most "financial advisors" are really salespeople who are likely to pitch things like annuities, life insurance or other high fee financial products. You may need to speak to whoever is managing the existing investments to understand the workings of any beneficiary designations, etc. But I would only take serious financial advice from a fee-only financial advisor. It would be very good if you could go with your Mom to any in-person meetings or listen in to any phone meetings to help her understand her options and not get pressured into inappropriate investments.

Longer term, it will be important to understand what your Mom's living expenses will be currently and in retirement. But that is information you can help gather over the next several months.
+1

Unfortunately, my personal experience is that most financial advisors and experts are there to enrich themselves - NOT their client. I would particularly be cautious of false fiduciaries. I spoke to one recently who charged a 1% fee for assets under management. NO THANKS!

FWIW, I would recommend doing the bare minimum and changing nothing for at least a year as you both work through the grief and gravity of losing your dad and her husband. It's ultimately your mom's decision on what to do. Whatever she chooses to do, do it slowly and in increments. Things done impulsively or in haste are usually done erroneously.
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CAsage
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Re: Just lost my father (age 60). Questions to begin helping my Mom (age 61).

Post by CAsage »

There is an excellent, reliable, free, anonymous SS tool that you can explore for Social security options:

https://opensocialsecurity.com/

Otherwise, I would stick to simple changes. Get things renamed to her account, close unneeded credit cards, consolidate a little. Take time to learn! Above all, don't sign up with a financial advisor who will run up the expenses and cost Mom a big chunk of her future returns/assets. Consider directing any current advisors to make no changes/reinvestments without Mom's direction (again, churning, fees). Her asset allocation might be a tad different than yours, but the fundamentals are not.
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Carefreeap
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Re: Just lost my father (age 60). Questions to begin helping my Mom (age 61).

Post by Carefreeap »

OP,

First, I'm sorry for your loss. 60/61 is young. We're 62 & 65 and have now lost two friends at age 60. Completely unexpected and seemly very healthy women. Kudos to you for helping your mom.
CAsage wrote: Mon Feb 12, 2024 11:40 am There is an excellent, reliable, free, anonymous SS tool that you can explore for Social security options:

https://opensocialsecurity.com/

Otherwise, I would stick to simple changes. Get things renamed to her account, close unneeded credit cards, consolidate a little. Take time to learn! Above all, don't sign up with a financial advisor who will run up the expenses and cost Mom a big chunk of her future returns/assets. Consider directing any current advisors to make no changes/reinvestments without Mom's direction (again, churning, fees). Her asset allocation might be a tad different than yours, but the fundamentals are not.
i think this is great sensible advice. Bogleheads tend to get wrapped around the axle about DIYing and optimizing everything and that can be fine if you're willing to devote a lot time to watching your money. Not everybody wants to do that.

I think it's great your mom wants to learn as much as she can. You should invite her to join us! :beer
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miket29
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Re: Just lost my father (age 60). Questions to begin helping my Mom (age 61).

Post by miket29 »

rhatfiel wrote: Mon Feb 12, 2024 4:53 am 2) I will post a follow-up portfolio review once I get my arms wrapped around her current positions, but is there a good resource for various strategies and portfolio allocations for someone age 61 who ideally would like to retire in the next 1-2 years? I feel very confident in my own allocation at age 37 from all of the learning this forum has provided me, and I’m trying to get a crash course in what may be better suited for her and her point in life.

3) Financial advisors / planners. I have not used one and I know bogleheads’ position here, but for her we will at least me initially meeting with the investments advisor that holds inherited IRAs and stocks from my Dad’s parents who my Dad worked with, and we may also meet with a Financial Advisor that a friend recommended to her. Any advise on what to dig into with these professionals to make sure I can help my Mom vet them appropriately, even if we are looking at using one in the short term? Other advise here?
My condolences on your family's loss.

There is a thread about fee-only financial advisors that don't charge a percentage of your assets on the Bogleheads forum at viewtopic.php?t=360823 You might want to consider someone mentioned there or a similar advisor. Find out if the two advisors you mention are legally considered fiduciaries. Anyone can call themselves a "financial advisor" including the salespeople at your friendly local brokerage. If the two advisors aren't fiduciaries then I'd be wary of even meeting with them; such people make a living convincing people to entrust their life savings to them and are probably very good at it. A person at a vulnerable time in their life may be easy pickings.

As for strategies and portfolio allocations its all going to depend on how much she needs on top of Social Security relative to her assets. If she needs to draw 1% then just about any reasonable asset allocation will work, if it's 5% or more then she may be at significant risk of running out of money during retirement.

One book I've read recently that gives a good overview of the investing landscape she may be interested in reading is Bill Bernstein's book "The Four Pillars of Investing, Second Edition"
Last edited by miket29 on Mon Feb 12, 2024 2:19 pm, edited 2 times in total.
mhalley
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Re: Just lost my father (age 60). Questions to begin helping my Mom (age 61).

Post by mhalley »

I wouldn’t bother with the SS appointment except to get the pias of your parents. My sister lost her husband recently and I was very disappointed in SS recommendation. Much better to use open SS after getting accurate pia.
niagara_guy
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Re: Just lost my father (age 60). Questions to begin helping my Mom (age 61).

Post by niagara_guy »

I am sorry for your loss and for your mom's loss.


1. the book “get what's yours the secrets to maxing out your social security” may answer your questions. You can probably get it at a library, I have a copy I don't need if you PM me I will mail it to you.

2. if your mom can decide what asset allocation (AA), which is the percentage of stocks to bonds in her portfolio then buy index funds to meet that AA. I would be cautious, if the market takes a dump she may blame you. What is the current AA that your dad used? Did he use index funds or something else? I would not hurry to make these changes.

3. I think most investment advisors charge north of 1% per year (plus some other fees), I personally would not pay that. I think Vanguard charges 0.3% per year but my understanding is that you don't get your own advisor. I believe Fidelity has something similar, I have not used either one. There are some advisors that charge by the hour or a fee for a whole financial plan, that might work if you can find one.

4. I think it varies by state. I would talk to the attorney handling his estate before I paid his credit card bills off, not sure what to do with joint cards.

5. I would start with this:
https://www.bogleheads.org/wiki/Getting_started
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LilyFleur
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Re: Just lost my father (age 60). Questions to begin helping my Mom (age 61).

Post by LilyFleur »

I would not meet with "investment advisors" (whether current or new) regarding inherited IRAs and stocks anytime soon. Your mom is vulnerable right now, and it is not necessary to put her in a situation where these salespeople might manipulate a grieving widow. They are in churches and social circles, and if anyone contacts her, they need to be told firmly that she is not ready to make any changes or meet with anyone at this time and that you will be advising her.

Just leave it for now, and when you make a decision to move her money to one of the three institutions that retired Bogleheads tend to use (Vanguard, Fidelity, or Schwab), you can work with a complementary advisor who will be more than happy to help you with an initial financial plan and deal with bringing over the inherited investments at no fee. The advisor and the institution that currently deal with the inherited accounts does not want you to leave. After my mother died, my Schwab complementary advisor even sat with me to fill out paperwork to move my inherited IRA. The advice to work with a fee-only fiduciary advisor is very good, but there's no rush.

Ultimately, you may want to select Fidelity or Schwab, as they provide customer assistance 24/7 which may be helpful if you are juggling the management of investments for two households. Please be aware that transfer bonuses can be negotiated for moving money to Fidelity or Schwab.

Grief can make it difficult for people to process cognitively to learn new things. She may or may not be able to focus on personal finance books at this time, especially since she is still working. I don't see a problem with leaving things as is in terms of advisors and institutions, for a year or so, as long as the current advisor has been instructed to not initiate investing in any front-loaded funds or annuities and not to further complicate the portfolio. But, absolutely, don't take your mother to meet the lion in his lair. :mrgreen: :oops:

There are other things to take care of in the meantime, like closing his credit cards, removing his name from shared credit cards, removing his name from any bills that come to the home in his name (electric bill, etc.), dealing with his cell phone, updating wills and trusts, and so on. You will need plenty of death certificates to show these entities. It's a surprising amount of administrative work when someone dies.

Your mom is very fortunate to have you.
rule of law guy
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Re: Just lost my father (age 60). Questions to begin helping my Mom (age 61).

Post by rule of law guy »

sorry for your loss!

knowledge is power. get a firm grip around the entire factual financial situation regarding your mom's (and father's estate) financial affairs before you do anything. once you have gotten this knowledge, then you are empowered to make decisions. this site is a good resource for making wise decisions, but first get an exact lay of the land.
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Re: Just lost my father (age 60). Questions to begin helping my Mom (age 61).

Post by RetiredAL »

rhatfiel wrote: Mon Feb 12, 2024 4:53 am
LilyFleur wrote: Mon Feb 12, 2024 2:47 pm

There are other things to take care of in the meantime, like closing his credit cards, removing his name from shared credit cards, removing his name from any bills that come to the home in his name (electric bill, etc.), dealing with his cell phone, updating wills and trusts, and so on. You will need plenty of death certificates to show these entities. It's a surprising amount of administrative work when someone dies.

Your mom is very fortunate to have you.
Do not remove his name from a joint checking account, unless you've already opened an Estate Account. You need some place to deposit any checks that come made out to him.

I was joint on my Dad's Checking. He passed later half of 2022, and that account is still open and used for misc stuff. An Estate checking account exists and it is used primarily. Just this last month I got two checks made out to him/his-estate.

When Mom passed in 2013, one check came 2+ years later. Long after you think you've discovered everything, you will find something else.
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Re: Just lost my father (age 60). Questions to begin helping my Mom (age 61).

Post by goodenyou »

Sorry for your loss.

Your mom can take survivor benefits at age 60. She will receive 71.5% of the deceased worker's BASIC amount at age 60 (she is 61 and will receive a bit more) up to 99% of the deceased worker's amount if she waits until HER FRA (which is probably 67), if she claimed at that time. She can claim on her own record later and receive an additional 24% of her PIA at age 70, if she turns off Survivor Benefits and claims on her own record at 70. There are factors that go into that decision tree. She could claim on her own record at a minimum of 62 and then turn on Survivor benefits at her FRA (she will have turn off her own). She would get the deceased spouse's full PIA at that time. She does not reduce her future benefit on her own record by taking survivor benefits regardless of when she claims survivor benefits. Spousal and Survivor benefits are often confused.

Claiming strategies on SS are complex and take time to think out. If you aren't very versed in constructing a retirement plan that involves much more than simple investing and constructing a Basic 3-Fund Portfolio, your mom would be well-served to get expert advice. Taking this on without expertise could be very difficult. Accumulation and distribution strategies are very different.
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Re: Just lost my father (age 60). Questions to begin helping my Mom (age 61).

Post by tallguy3891 »

goodenyou wrote: Mon Feb 12, 2024 3:29 pm Sorry for your loss.

I think your mom can take survivor benefits at age 60. She will receive 71.5% of the deceased worker's BASIC amount at age 60 (she is 61 and will receive more) up to 99% of the deceased worker's amount at her FRA (which is probably 67), if she claimed at that time. She can claim on her own record later and receive an additional 24% of her PIA at age 70, if she turns off Survivor Benefits and claims on her own record at 70. There are factors that go into that decision tree. She does not reduce her benefit on her record by taking survivor benefits at any time she claims. Spouse and Survivor benefits are often confused.

Claiming strategies on SS are complex and take time to think out. If you aren't very versed in constructing a retirement plan that involves much more than simple investing and constructing a Basic 3-Fund Portfolio, your mom would be well-served to get expert advice. Taking this on without expertise could be very difficult. Accumulation and distribution strategies are very different.
Very sorry about your loss.

Yes, widow's social security benefits can be taken at age 60. I believe it is very important to have a preferably face to face interview with a Title 2 Claims Representative in office. It would be a good idea to take a list of questions to discuss about the scenarios of taking benefits sooner or later, off of self or spouse, delayed, etc. Ask questions as this can have an ongoing effect on current and future income. I would take the time necessary to gather info and discuss with knowledgeable people. There is no obligation to file the application at the first interview. I would also ask for a long time Claims Rep with much experience.
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Re: Just lost my father (age 60). Questions to begin helping my Mom (age 61).

Post by senex »

So sorry for your loss.

1) Not sure.
2) Depends on her assets, liabilities, pension (if any), social security, her spending rate and her risk tolerance. Need to gather that info first.
3) I've seen advisors take advantage of widows. Please be very careful about who she meets and what she signs.
4) Not sure.
5) Bogle's book is good. So is the boglehead wiki.
6) As others have said: make a good accounting, go slowly, take your time, be very careful about what you sign with "advisors"
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Re: Just lost my father (age 60). Questions to begin helping my Mom (age 61).

Post by nimo956 »

I did the same thing for my mother after my father passed away. The first point is that this is a shock to the system. It will take your mother time to adjust to this new life. It’s perfectly fine to defer making drastic changes to her life savings for 6 months.

The second point is that this is your mother’s money. You need to invest for her risk tolerance and not yours (even if you think your way will outperform).

Since she is unfamiliar with finances in general, I would start with a portfolio of 75% intermediate term treasuries, and 25% global stock index fund. This 2 fund portfolio very simple to explain, easy to understand, and low risk. Don’t bother with any rebalancing. This is exactly what I did for my mother.
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biscuits
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Re: Just lost my father (age 60). Questions to begin helping my Mom (age 61).

Post by biscuits »

I am so sorry for your loss. Your mother is lucky to have you helping her.

I lost my husband in 2022, when I was 68. You've gotten a lot of excellent advice above. I'll just add my 2 cents on 2 things:

1) It was fairly easy to roll over my husband's IRA into my 403(b) at TIAA, and it felt good to have that done, at least.

2) Our accountant advised me that since my late husband & I lived in a community property state, I should have all significant joint assets appraised as of the date of his death, to take advantage of a stepped-up cost basis. He recommended that I get advice from our lawyer on this. That includes some jointly-held real estate, appreciated art, and appreciated stocks in a taxable account. Doing this can lead to a big tax break that maybe offsets some of the tax shocks of going from married filing jointly (which your mother can do the year of and the year after your father's death) to filing singly.

And just so you know: the love and support of my children has been so important to me in the aftermath of my husband's death. While I was on top of the finances and had made plenty of decisions about them all along, I found myself doubting my judgement, and needing to run decisions by someone. It is very hard to go from joint decision-making to solo-decision making on everything from what's for dinner to the dog's health to major financial questions, and the kids have been wonderful sounding boards and advisors to me. It also really matters that they call on our anniversary, on their Dad's birthday, and all that.

Good luck to you both--
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rhatfiel
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Re: Just lost my father (age 60). Questions to begin helping my Mom (age 61).

Post by rhatfiel »

Thank you all for the condolences and great advice. Exactly what I was hoping for as far as pointing me in the right direction for me to dig further into. Lots of education ahead. Thanks again.
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retired@50
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Re: Just lost my father (age 60). Questions to begin helping my Mom (age 61).

Post by retired@50 »

rhatfiel wrote: Mon Feb 12, 2024 4:53 am
3) Financial advisors / planners. I have not used one and I know bogleheads’ position here, but for her we will at least me initially meeting with the investments advisor that holds inherited IRAs and stocks from my Dad’s parents who my Dad worked with, and we may also meet with a Financial Advisor that a friend recommended to her. Any advice on what to dig into with these professionals to make sure I can help my Mom vet them appropriately, even if we are looking at using one in the short term? Other advice here?
Advisers are rough territory. Be careful.

Consider reading the 19 Questions To Ask Your Financial Adviser by Jason Zweig of the Wall Street Journal.

Maybe share it with your mom.

Regards,
If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear. -George Orwell
HomeStretch
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Re: Just lost my father (age 60). Questions to begin helping my Mom (age 61).

Post by HomeStretch »

Condolences on your loss. Your mom is lucky to have your help.

To help her most effectively, your mom may need to update her estate documents to name you as her DPOA agent, healthcare representative and Executor of her Will. She may also need to update beneficiary designations on accounts, life insurance, etc.

You/she may also need to update things that your dad was named as primary on. For example, joint accounts, credit cards, utilities, etc.
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