May 8, 2011

A Lasting Mothers Day Gift

Mother's Day 2011. I wish I could share the day with my late mom, pictured at left.  For those of you with Mothers in your lives, it's time for some pampering. Flowers, cards and candy are nice. But there's something else you can do to demonstrate your appreciation for Mom: Help her plan for her future, financially and legally. 

The need is clear: Our mothers tend to live longer than our fathers. The average female will spend a decade more in retirement than her male counterpart. If a woman has worked or is working still, her career is more likely to be interrupted by child care,  which impacts her earnings, savings and Social Security. Daughters are also more likely than sons to be caregivers for their aging parents.

All of this adds up to some unique estate planning and financial planning challenges. In my experience, most women are well aware of these challenges and eager to take action. They worry about having sufficient funds to live on for the rest of their lives. They want to be sure their disability or death doesn't create chaos in their children's lives. Their awareness of these issues is probably the reason that more often than not,  it is the wife, not the husband, that makes that first call to my office.

So how can you help secure your Mother's future and allay her worries? One suggestion is that you offer -ever so gently, respectfully and sensitively - to help her get her paperwork in order. Locating and organizing years of records is often the most difficult part of the entire estate planning process! If your Mother was recently widowed and her husband handled the finances, it can be even more intimidating. If Mother agrees, here's a partial list of the items that you can help locate and organize:
  1. Investment, bank accounts for checking, CD's, brokerage statements.
  2. Social Security information.
  3. Insurance policies: life insurance, auto insurance, homeowners insurance.
  4. Medicare information and statements.
  5. Tax documents.
  6. List of credit cards.
  7. Utility bills.
  8. Important documents like birth certificates, naturalization papers, death certificates, etc.
  9. Deeds for property, registration papers for cars.
  10. Estate planning documents: wills, trusts, power of attorney, health care power of attorney.
  11. Mortgage and loan papers.
  12. Retirement accounts, pension, etc.
  13. List of all her health care providers.
Helping Mom with this process can be a wonderful and lasting gift to her - and to you, ultimately - provided you approach it with the utmost sensitivity. Happy Mother's Day to all. 

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