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Help mom organize her finances
Save money
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With Mother’s Day here, wouldn’t you like to show your appreciation in a way that’s more meaningful than chocolates or flowers?
Here’s a thought: Offer to spend a few hours helping sort through your mom’s financial, legal and medical paperwork so she — and you — know where she stands and can take any appropriate actions.
A few key areas to explore might include:
Retirement income sources. Gather the following documents so she’ll have an idea of what income will be available throughout retirement:
• If still working, your mom should get an annual statement from Social Security showing estimated benefits at varying retirement ages. You’ll also need your dad’s statement to determine potential spousal or survivor benefits. For questions, call 1-800-772-1213 or visit
• Annual statements from any pension plans, showing updated benefit estimates. This might also include potential spousal death benefits if your father has a pension.
• IRA, 401(k) or other retirement plan statements.
• Statements for bank products such as checking, savings and money market accounts, CDs, etc.
• Company stock and bond certificates and statements for other accounts.
Outstanding debts. On the other side of the equation, compile statements and outstanding balances owed for:
• Mortgage or other property loans
• Home equity loan or line of credit
• Car loan or lease
• Credit cards
• Medical bills
• Personal loans
Life and death documents. Your mom may have many important documents that instruct how she’d like her affairs handled, both while she’s living and after death. Look for:
• Insurance policies for medical, homeowner or renter, auto, life, disability and long-term care.
• Durable power of attorney and health care proxy specifying who will make her financial and medical decisions if she’s incapacitated. Also, a living will tells doctors which medical treatments and life-support procedures she may want performed.
• A will (and possibly a trust) outlining how she wants her estate managed.
• Birth certificate, marriage license, Social Security card, funeral and burial plans, safe deposit box information and other important paperwork.
Contact information. Gather information for your mother’s professional service providers, including doctors, dentist, lawyer, financial advisor, bank or credit union, insurance companies, pharmacy, etc. Also give these providers your contact information in case of emergencies.
There are several important points to keep in mind with documents:
• Review and update them regularly. Make sure designated beneficiaries for her will, insurance and accounts reflect your mom’s current wishes. For example, a beneficiary may die or a new grandchild is born.
• Make sure her insurance accurately reflects inflationary increases to the value of her home and its contents.
• Copy everything and store backups in a few safe locations.
Many Web sites contain information about financial and legal issues facing seniors, including AARP ( and Practical Money Skills for Life, Visa Inc.’s free personal financial management site (
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