Determine Assets and Income

As caregiver for my 87 year-old mother, I was recently put in charge of her finances. Do you have a list that you work from that can help me figure out both her assets and her income?

Anita in Florida, 49

Absolutely. Protect your mother by gathering the facts so you have a comprehensive understanding of her financial situation. I often find myself playing the role of detective, since much of this information is difficult to come by. Add up assets from the following sources (there may be others, so take them into account):

1. Checking accounts

2. Savings accounts

3. Stocks

4. Bonds

5. Rental property income

6. Home owner property

7. Safe deposit boxes

8. IRAs

9. 401Ks

10. Pensions

11. Vehicles

12. Hidden valuables

Hidden valuables, you might ask? This happens all of the time. Some seniors hide cash and valuables and forget where they put them. They could be buried in the back yard, safety-pinned inside a winter coat, wrapped in tinfoil behind the radiator, or placed in a shoe box under the attic floor boards. Some elderly cut out the heart of a book and put cash and valuables inside, then place the book back on the shelf. Other popular hiding spots include behind picture frames, art work, deep recesses of closets, the back of a clothing drawer, under the cover of an ironing board, the bottom of the hamper, inside socks, in the freezer, and inside the unexposed belly of a piece of furniture. It is your task to find these valuables. It’s much better to discover them now and include them as assets in order to make your elder’s life more comfortable today.

Next, it’s time to determine your mother’s monthly income. Carefully add up the following income sources (there may be others, so take them into account):

1. Pension

2. Current job

3. Interest

4. Bonds

5. Dividends

6. CDs

7. Annuities

8. Rental properties

9. Other businesses

10. Social security

11. Disability

12. Unemployment

Also ask if your mother has any promissory notes to pay off. If so, pay them off as soon as possible. On the flip side, find out if any assets have been borrowed but never paid back. If so, try to collect on them, and ask about any silent partnerships. If there are any liens against any of your mother’s property, take care of that, too. Make sure you’re always within the legal boundaries. I recommend that you speak with an elder care lawyer and/or financial advisor for guidance and direction.

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