What do I need to know about my mom's finances?

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ryuns
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What do I need to know about my mom's finances?

Post by ryuns » Mon Nov 13, 2017 7:29 pm

Hi friends. I'm 33. My mother is 72, but is in excellent health, living independently and doing a ton of traveling. But she is a widow (my father/her husband died ~23 years ago), and I will be the main person dealing with her affairs after she passes. (I have an older brother, but I'm a 3 hour drive away compared to his cross-country flight.) And because she is a complete saint, she is also the "provider" for her brother-in-law (my dad's brother) who deals with mental illness (schizophrenia, and possibly other diagnoses). (Statistically, she'll probably outlive him--he's been hospitalized several times for heart issue and is generally pretty unhealthy--but obviously nothing is certain). She doles out money to him from social security and an annuity from his father's inheritance, pays his bills for him, and occasionally has to be more involved when he has if he has health issues, tries to start drinking again (which happens here and there), or otherwise finds himself in a bind.

I'm wondering if there are any things that I should ask her or try to find out or get in writing about her financial situation, level of preparation, where to find the resources I would need, etc. I've not been closely involved and she's always made a habit of being cagey about finances (likely trying to insulate us kids from finances, especially when, I suspect, we were relatively well-off in our small, working class town). However, she seems fairly well-prepared. She has a financial planner who has a long-standing relationship with our family, who manages the bulk of her assets excluding the day-to-day stuff like checking and CC. She has also asked me, at various times, to sign on to several different accounts. (Edit: as an authorized agent. But I don't know, off hand, what accounts or for whom.) Truthfully, I don't know the details of the accounts that I've signed on to. So that's all to say that she's clearly thought ahead about this, but I'm realizing that I'm a little in the dark. I get the sense that she wants to be prepared, while inconveniencing or boring me as little as possible.

My first thought is that I need her to be frank about what my plan should be for her brother-in-law/my uncle, even though I think that will be a difficult conversation because I'm not in a position to provide the type of care she does (due to distance, working, family). What other types of things should I ask, without being patronizing (because, again, she does have her stuff together AFAIK)?

Thanks in advance!
Last edited by ryuns on Mon Nov 13, 2017 8:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered; an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered. -- GK Chesterton

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FiveK
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Re: What do I need to know about my mom's finances?

Post by FiveK » Mon Nov 13, 2017 7:57 pm

See Estate planning - Bogleheads for some things your mom might want to consider.

One could speculate about many things (e.g., the value being provided by the "financial planner who has a long-standing relationship with our family") but until/unless your mother asks, it may not be worth volunteering to help.

Nothing wrong, though, with going through the wiki link (and things it links to) and sending information to your mother. What she chooses to do with it....

aristotelian
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Re: What do I need to know about my mom's finances?

Post by aristotelian » Mon Nov 13, 2017 8:10 pm

When you say she has asked you to log onto several accounts, are those accounts that are in her name? You should not be logging in using another person's credentials. If she wants you to be involved in her finances and prepared to help her out should she need it, you should go through the proper channels of her giving you "agent authorization" on the accounts, which can be done with a form (no lawyers involved). For more complex estate planning, she would want to name you as power of attorney.

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ryuns
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Re: What do I need to know about my mom's finances?

Post by ryuns » Mon Nov 13, 2017 8:11 pm

FiveK wrote:
Mon Nov 13, 2017 7:57 pm

One could speculate about many things (e.g., the value being provided by the "financial planner who has a long-standing relationship with our family") but until/unless your mother asks, it may not be worth volunteering to help.
Thanks for the response. I suppose that is my question--whether it should be my business to try to glean information that I may eventually need, so I'm not left in a lurch trying to figure it all out. Like, I *think* she's done most of the best practices that one would recommend for someone in her position, but I just don't know. I'm not really interested in second-guessing the individual decisions about things like investments. For what it's worth, I mention that her financial planner has a long-standing relationship only for context that her money is fairly well-organized and I wouldn't expect any big surprises, like she's invested in 80% GLD or bitcoin something. I've asked, and he invests in mostly blue chip individual stocks and bonds, fairly well-diversified, and charges 1% UAM. It's not what I'd do with MY money, but it's all above board.
An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered; an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered. -- GK Chesterton

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badbreath
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Re: What do I need to know about my mom's finances?

Post by badbreath » Mon Nov 13, 2017 8:13 pm

Has your Mother asked you to think about this, if not move on and get your finances up.
“While money can’t buy happiness, it certainly lets you choose your own form of misery.” Groucho Marx

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ryuns
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Re: What do I need to know about my mom's finances?

Post by ryuns » Mon Nov 13, 2017 8:13 pm

aristotelian wrote:
Mon Nov 13, 2017 8:10 pm
When you say she has asked you to log onto several accounts, are those accounts that are in her name? You should not be logging in using another person's credentials. If she wants you to be involved in her finances and prepared to help her out should she need it, you should go through the proper channels of her giving you "agent authorization" on the accounts, which can be done with a form (no lawyers involved). For more complex estate planning, she would want to name you as power of attorney.
Sorry--I wasn't clear there. When I say "signed on to several accounts", I mean as authorized agent. (I'll update the OP). We were in a bank. Obviously, my imprecise language is a reflection of the reasons why I felt I should post this thread. :D
Last edited by ryuns on Mon Nov 13, 2017 8:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered; an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered. -- GK Chesterton

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ryuns
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Re: What do I need to know about my mom's finances?

Post by ryuns » Mon Nov 13, 2017 8:17 pm

badbreath wrote:
Mon Nov 13, 2017 8:13 pm
Has your Mother asked you to think about this, if not move on and get your finances up.
Ok...I'll be sure to make sure my finances are "up " :confused In any case, I think I tried to explain this in my post, but yes, I've clearly been involved in a limited capacity in some of my mom's finances. It's very explicit that if something were to happen to her, the responsibilities for the estate would fall to me, but I don't know exactly what those responsibilities are and whether that's cause for concern.
An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered; an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered. -- GK Chesterton

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FiveK
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Re: What do I need to know about my mom's finances?

Post by FiveK » Mon Nov 13, 2017 8:40 pm

ryuns wrote:
Mon Nov 13, 2017 8:11 pm
I suppose that is my question--whether it should be my business to try to glean information that I may eventually need, so I'm not left in a lurch trying to figure it all out.
It would be reasonable to ask "if the worst happens, where do you have all the information I'll need (e.g., will, list of accounts, etc. - the information given in the wiki links)?"

If she takes that opportunity to share more, fine. But at least you will know (assuming she has in fact done this) where the mother lode (so to speak) of information resides.

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Mlm
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Re: What do I need to know about my mom's finances?

Post by Mlm » Mon Nov 13, 2017 8:44 pm

If you have been named as her Executor I imagine she would have told you that. If you are the Executor of her will I think it is reasonable to ask where you can find necessary documents. If you have not been named I think that any questions are intrusive.
Reality has a way of catching up with you

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Re: What do I need to know about my mom's finances?

Post by mouses » Mon Nov 13, 2017 8:56 pm

I would just go to your Mom and say you want to understand what your responsibilities are if she passes or becomes incapacitated, including in regard to her brother-in-law. Any reasonable person would want to be sure you know this, unless she is planning on living forever in good mental and physical health.

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Watty
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Re: What do I need to know about my mom's finances?

Post by Watty » Mon Nov 13, 2017 8:57 pm

Since she is still very competent I think that the best thing to do would be to just ask her what she thinks you should know and if she would like to give you instructions on how things should handled if she is incapacitated. Having basic information like a copy of her medicare card and any medicare supplement cards could be real useful.

Since she went through settling an estate with your dad she could very well have this already set up with a lawyer but if you don't know the name of the lawyer then that could put you in a bind.

One of the most important things to know is where things like medical directives are so that you will have them if you suddenly need to rush to a hospital and be making decisions for her care. Where important paperwork like wills is kept is also important. I know of a relative that moved several times before he died and no one could find his will even though people were pretty sure that he had one.

dbr
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Re: What do I need to know about my mom's finances?

Post by dbr » Mon Nov 13, 2017 9:09 pm

It might be most helpful to formalize how these things are going to work. The question of who is the executor is critical. If it isn't you, then who is it and what are they doing to be prepared? It is appropriate for someone to have her health care power of attorney. Is that you? It might be time to create a durable POA. As far as accounts a mechanism to be on the accounts is a POA extending only to the accounts and then get online access for yourself. Maybe you need a POA filed with and recognized by the FA. If you can't get these things done, that probably means you mother is not ready to go there and I don't think there is much you can do yet. I took care of my mother in the last years of her life, but age 72 was a long way before that and she didn't need help at that point.

Who has health care and durable POA for your uncle? Is it a plan for you to take care of him or will it be someone else? There might need to be successors for that.

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badbreath
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Re: What do I need to know about my mom's finances?

Post by badbreath » Mon Nov 13, 2017 9:25 pm

Ok.... It's very explicit that if something were to happen to her, the responsibilities for the estate would fall to me,n.
Ask her and make sure you know what your responsibilities will be. It may not be what you think.
“While money can’t buy happiness, it certainly lets you choose your own form of misery.” Groucho Marx

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Re: What do I need to know about my mom's finances?

Post by Katietsu » Mon Nov 13, 2017 9:59 pm

I would have two separate conversations. One conversation would be about her and one about the brother in law.

Forget about the executor stuff for now IMO. Honestly, other than what type of funeral and whether there have been payment arrangements, when someone dies you usually have time to sort things out. The more important reason to get up to date is in the case of illness or accident. When you are already in crisis mode worrying about your loved one's health, you do not also want to be trying to figure out what kind of health insurance they have and who is their primary care doctor. You also want to know things like if there are vehicle payments that need made. Is there long term care insurance? Is there a list of accounts for which you are an authorized agent? Do you have the authority to write checks or withdraw money on any of her accounts or just to view them? After this conversation, you can decide how to proceed if you wish to talk about her estate.


The second conversation would be about the brother in law. It sounds like she is a POA. Is there a successor POA? I think it is very important that there be detailed written records of the care provided to the brother in law.

I personally filled out my first summary on my financial accounts, insurances, payments, etc when I was about your age. (And how to take care of pets and plants.) I have updated it a couple of times, but it is out of date again. It is on my To Do list right now.

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Re: What do I need to know about my mom's finances?

Post by Caduceus » Tue Nov 14, 2017 2:58 am

Regardless of age, it seems prudent for all next-of-kin to be able to have access to a comprehensive list of all financial accounts, as well as any assets and liabilities owned outside of those accounts. Once you have that, everything else is easier. You don't have to ask her how much she has in each account or anything specific, just whether she has prepared such a list and where the family should go to find it when they should need to.

It can be an awkward conversation unless it's initiated by the older generation, but I had those conversations within an honest, and sometimes also funny and wide-ranging discussion of other end-of-life topics, like where my folks wanted to be buried when they passed. I think it can be helpful to make sure the whole family, especially siblings, know of these wishes as it will pre-empt conflict when the inevitable time comes.

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Re: What do I need to know about my mom's finances?

Post by mouses » Tue Nov 14, 2017 5:42 am

Caduceus wrote:
Tue Nov 14, 2017 2:58 am
Regardless of age, it seems prudent for all next-of-kin to be able to have access to a comprehensive list of all financial accounts, as well as any assets and liabilities owned outside of those accounts. Once you have that, everything else is easier. You don't have to ask her how much she has in each account or anything specific, just whether she has prepared such a list and where the family should go to find it when they should need to.
My executor and successor executor have this information. I certainly wouldn't spread it around more widely than that.

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ryuns
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Re: What do I need to know about my mom's finances?

Post by ryuns » Tue Nov 14, 2017 1:36 pm

Thanks so much for all the helpful advice, everyone! This is such a great community of folks
An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered; an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered. -- GK Chesterton

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Re: What do I need to know about my mom's finances?

Post by PatrickA5 » Tue Nov 14, 2017 1:59 pm

It all depends on the person. I know everything I need to know about my dad's finances. Accounts, passwords, amounts, basically everything. I could step in right now and handle things easily. The estate will be a breeze as everything is TOD or I'm already a joint owner. It took some work on my part to help him set up wills, POA, Healthcare Directive, etc., but it's done. He was willing to help me do this even though at his advanced age it was kind of hard on him.

Now, my father-in-law is a different story. My DW knows very little and he's not sharing. He has a Will that we have a copy of and he says he has TOD, POD on everything, but as far as what accounts he owns and where, who knows. He has a envelope that says "Do not open until I'm dead".

So, tread lightly. Try to get a feel if your DM is ready for you to know everything about her finances. If she is, then start organizing all of her accounts, etc into a spreadsheet. Ask her about life insurance, annuities, how the house is titled (TOD?), Wills, POAs, Healthcare Directives, Etc. This could take some time. I think it took me over a year of gently prodding my dad for information.

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