Professionals Can Help Manage Older Parents" Affairs

Article excerpt

PEOPLE on the leading edge of the baby boom generation turn 47 this year, and more of them are faced with the responsibility of caring for an older parent or relative.

This issue is compounded by the mobility of U.S. society, forcing many of these children of older parents to manage their parents' affairs from a distance.

"A primary goal of many people in this situation of caring for an older person is to help the parent remain independent, staying in his or her home as long as possible," says Jan Walsh, who specializes in retirement planning for the College for Financial Planning in Denver.

Walsh said that whether you manage your parent's affairs or merely assist in the process, it is important - particularly if there is some geographic distance involved - to have professional help.

While a financial planner can help organize the financial aspects of an older person's life, the critical areas can also benefit from qualified advice and counsel. These include estate planning, incapacity and life-care planning, said Walsh.

Some of the medical, estate and financial issues can be planned for by drawing up certain documents, including a durable power of attorney, a durable power of attorney with health-care provisions, a health-care proxy and a living will. The vehicles available to you will depend on your state law - which can vary significantly, cautions Walsh.

"This is particularly true if you live, for example, in Los Angeles, and your parent lives in Miami. Your local attorney may have a perfectly good grasp of the ins and outs of California estate law, but may not be aware of some critical component of Florida law that governs your parents," she said.

"The goal of the power of attorney with health-care provisions is to help manage the financial and medical care of an older person when he or she becomes unable to make decisions," said Walsh.

This legal tool allows a person to appoint an agent who is authorized to make financial and medical choices in cases of incapacity.

Walsh also recommends taking the time to find a lawyer who specializes in elder law to help with this planning effort. …