It's Your Money  

Taking control of aging parents' finances

Money management

As our society ages, many individuals find themselves in the challenging position of taking control of their aging parents' finances. While this responsibility can be overwhelming, it is a role that many have no choice but to accept and many will take on regardless of the difficulties.

However, in doing so it is crucial to avoid common mistakes that can have long-term consequences. Let’s look at the common pitfalls encountered and some practical guidance to navigate this delicate financial transition:

1. Lack of communication and planning—One of the most prevalent mistakes Canadians make when taking control of their aging parents' finances is a lack of open communication and planning. Many families avoid discussing financial matters until a crisis occurs, leaving them unprepared and scrambling for solutions. It is essential to initiate conversations with parents (and siblings) early on, discussing their financial goals, estate planning, and the potential need for a power of attorney (POA).

2. Failure to establish legal authority—Another common mistake is the failure to establish legal authority over a parent's finances. Without a POA or representation agreement in place, it can be challenging to manage their financial affairs, especially if they become incapacitated. Seeking legal advice and setting up the necessary legal documents early on can provide peace of mind and ensure smooth decision-making processes when the need arises.

3. Assuming a POA is enough—Most financial institutions are required to report activity that could harm a customer and are always on the lookout for financial elder abuse. So quite often a POA on its own is not enough as they have no way of knowing if it’s the most current one or if it was rescinded. The institution will likely also require some type of proof that your aging parent is incapacitated so a letter from their doctor confirming this is good to also have if possible.

4. Neglecting long-term care planning—Many Canadians underestimate the financial burden of long-term care for aging parents. Failing to plan for the costs of assisted living or nursing home care can quickly deplete savings and put undue stress on family members. It is crucial to research and understand the available options, such as long-term care insurance or government programs, and consider incorporating them into a comprehensive financial plan.

5. Ignoring tax implications—Tax implications are often overlooked when assuming control of aging parents' finances. Failing to account for income tax obligations, eligible deductions, or government benefits can result in missed opportunities or unexpected tax liabilities. Seeking advice from a tax professional can help ensure compliance with tax regulations and optimize tax planning strategies, maximizing financial resources for the care of aging parents.

6. Mismanaging investments and retirement savings—Mismanaging investments and retirement savings is another common mistake. Without a thorough understanding of investment principles and risk tolerance, well-intentioned individuals may inadvertently make poor investment decisions, risking the financial security of their aging parents. Consulting with a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) professional can help develop a sound investment strategy tailored to the specific needs and objectives of the aging parents.

Taking control of aging parents' finances is a significant responsibility that requires careful planning, open communication, and a proactive approach. By avoiding common mistakes, Canadians can ensure the financial well-being of their aging parents during this critical stage of life.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Brett has worked in the financial advice industry for over 15 years and is designated as a chartered investment manager(CIM) and certified financial planner (CFP).

In 2014, Brett was appointed to the board of directors of FP Canada (the national professional body for financial planning) and spent seven years on the board, including his final two as board chair. More recently, he was appointed to the Financial Planning Standards Board (FPSB), which is the international professional body for this industry with a three-year term beginning in April 2023.

Brett has been writing a weekly financial planning column since 2012 and provides his readers with easy-to-understand explanations of the complex financial challenges that they face in every stage of life.

Enhancing the financial literacy of Canadian consumers is a top priority of Brett’s and his ongoing efforts as a finance writer and on the regulatory side through the national and global boards focus on this initiative.   

Please let Brett know if you have any topics that you’d like him to cover in future columns or if you’d like a referral to a qualified CFP professional in your area by emailing him at [email protected].


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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