How much of my parents' financial affairs can I manage when I live out-of-state?


I live in New Mexico, while my parents live in Illinois. They are asking me to take over their financial affairs for them as soon as I can. To what extent can I recently handle this from so far away? Thank you

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Great detailed answers. I'd like to add that since you are dealing with 2 different states, if you don't have a passport then get one. What can happen is that when you whip out that NM license…...the bank teller, water dept employee, etc will look at the out of state drivers license and find it to be a reason not to deal with you. A DPOA or other legal with IL notary seal and your passport kinda trumps any concern.

Plus there's always those idiots who don't know NM is a US state.
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And, keep copious records of any of THEIR MONEY you spend and what it was for in case there's any issues down the road. I just got in under the wire with my folks. Even then I had to frame it as JUST IN CASE you're not able to deal with all this. Well guess what.....D*mn good thing I laid some track two years ago.
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It can be done. I've been doing it for about 2 years from 10 hours away from my parents. You will need a broad POA from both parents. Get paperwork from their bank to give you acess to all accounts. Since they are cooperating have them authorise all utilities and financial institutions to allow you acess, mail bills to you and/or pay on line.

Make a trip to your parents home and make a notebook of every conceivable phone number, medical contacts, neighbors, financial records , deeds , wills EVERYTHING.

I've been doing it fairly well but lay the ground work now before they get stubborn.
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This is an interesting question. Knowing the wide knowledge of posters here, I'm sure you'll get some good suggestions.

I think I would itemize all aspects that you'll be taking over. I'm assuming there would be a checking account, perhaps savings account, and perhaps investments such as money markets or CD funds, stocks, bonds and/or mutuals, life insurance, annuities, pensions, bills, and possibly more.

You'll want to get contact information for each of them to determine what they need (such as a Durable Power of Attorney) to act on your parents' behalf. It's been my experience that mutual fund managers have their own forms of a DPOA, so you can order, complete and have parents execute the forms.

If you're the sole heir, you might want to raise with your parents the issue the possibility of changing title so that the assets eventually pass directly to you. It wouldn't hurt to also discuss their estate planning needs and resolve that issue as well.

You'll need them to authorize you to access their checking account to pay bills If their bank is a national one with a local branch, ask one of the staff how they would handle this, such as if your parents would sign new signatory cards, forward to the bank and you would then go in to sign them.

They may also be able to do this by electronic signatures; they're used for document execution so they might be considered appropriate by banks.

I would send letters co-signed by your parents to utilities, mortgagee(s), credit card issuers, etc. asking that statements be sent to you. Once you have the necessary forms for the financial instruments you can do the same.

If there are services such as landscape/lawn mowing, do the same.

If you're going to be doing their taxes, it would help to get copies of the last few years' returns, not only as guidelines but to ensure you don't miss anything.

At one point I was having trouble keeping track of my parents' sometimes complex returns so I created checklists as to everything that could possibly be relevant, especially since some years there were no entries of a certain nature but a few years later there might be, and by then I had forgotten that they needed to be included.

I also set up my own 1040 form and schedules using Excel. Whenever a dividend or cap gain check was received, it was entered into a spreadsheet Exhibit B; same for income. Each of the sheets was linked to a master 1040 form that I also created.

So whenever I entered a medical, charitable or income amount, the relevant schedules were updated, and since they were linked to the 1040, it was updated as well. Then I could see at a glance what their income status was.

When I was particularly well organized (which I'm not now), I also entered medical and charitable expenses regularly. E.g., I had a spreadsheet with mileage for doctors, and would update that regularly after appointments. Same with medical insurance payments, prescription costs, and charitable disbursements.

That was when I was organized; I'm not now, but it really was a help when I did it regularly!
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A lot depends on how complex are your parent's finances. If there are a lot of stocks that need watching, real estate investments, half dozen savings accounts, a bunch of checking accounts scattered every which way, I would hire a CPA to manage it all [with the parents paying for the service] and a stock broker to deal with the stocks.

The issue I have is that my Dad bought stock directly from many different companies going back to the 1940's for some, and I repeatedly ask, beg, plead with him to put everything with one broker, otherwise it will be a nightmare later down the road.
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