QUESTION: My dad has always handled the finances and paperwork for the household. My mother has said she didn’t want the responsibility but now I am concerned about what will happen if something happens to my dad and then could no longer do it. Any suggestions as to how to get my mother involved?
ANSWER: The situation you describe is more common than most people would believe. In many marriages the household responsibilities are separated with each spouse only concerned with those responsibilities they have taken on as their own.
You should be concerned because if something was to happen to your dad your mother very likely would be panicked about being faced with this responsibility that is foreign to her.
It is very important that each spouse has knowledge of the others responsibilities. This doesn’t necessarily mean taking over the job but at least having an understanding so that if the need arose they would be able to function or at least know who to turn to for help.
Sometimes separation of responsibilities comes about because one spouse just feels he or she is better qualified and takes over the job. At other times it is because one spouse does not want any part of a particular chore and willingly lets the other intake the responsibility.
Communication and sharing is the answer. While it doesn’t require becoming a wizard at investing or an expert in accounting—each must know enough to keep everything functioning. Each one needs to have knowledge of where income comes from, how much it is, what monthly bills exist and where investments are located. If this information is kept on a computer, the spouse that is not currently involved must know the passwords. If they do not use the computer they will also need to have a paper copy backup.
Records should be kept so that they both know what accounts they have at what banks and other financial institutions, the name and contact number for financial professionals, employee benefits, health care coverage and retirement plans.
Perhaps the spouse not currently involved could prepare these records and thus enlightening him or herself of this vital information. For a short period of
time the workload could be divided with your Mom being put in charge of doing some of the weekly or monthly paperwork. Paying the bills for a period of time would give her an understanding of what comes in and what goes out each month.
It is more important that both understand their healthcare coverage, where ts comes from and what it covers. If healthcare coverage comes in part from a former employer it is especially important to understand how it works, who to contact with questions and if and when it could be cancelled.
If your dad has any meeting with financial advisors he could involve your mon in those meetings and she not only would learn what was being discussed but would also meet the people involved. This would make it much easier for her if she has to meet with them alone sometime in the future.
Your dad, when going through the papers, could add explanatory notes on plans and documents explaining his intentions behind the decisions hemade. This provides a foundation from which to work.
You and your siblings can be of help to your mom if the time comes that she is in a position where she needs to understand the consequences of actions taken. Also if the time comes everyone involved should understand the consequences of actions taken. Also if the time comes everyone involved should understand the need to wait before making any major financial decisions.
A year is a good period to put everything on hold, unless an emergency occurs, as this 12-month cycle allows the surviving spouse to understand the different expenses that occur throughout the year such as income taxes, property taxes, insurance premiums, etc.
I hope this helps a little.

MONDAY – November 11 – Veterans Day Breakfast and USO Show – at Goebel Adult Community Center – 1385 E. Janss Road in Thousand Oaks – event is free but reservations (limit 4 tickets per person) are required. Doors open at 8:30 am, breakfast is served at 9:00 and the USO Show starts at 9:30. Come and celebrate with our veterans.
WEDNESDAY – November 6 – 1:00 pm – Thousand Oaks Council on Aging Meeting – presentation by Life Coach and Motivational speaker Lian Olin – “From Surviving to “Thriving” at Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 Thousand Oaks Boulevard in Thousand Oaks.
TUESDAY – November 12 – 4:00 to 5:30 pm – Path to Positive Aging Series – “LIFE” Legal Information for the Elderly – at Senior Concerns Day Care Center, 401 Hodencamp Road in Thousand Oaks. For reservations call (805) 497-0189.
Betty Berry is a senior advocate for Senior Concerns. The advocates are located at the Goebel Adult Community Center, 1385 E. Janss Road, Thousand Oaks, CA 91362 or call (805) 495-6250 or email (please include your telephone number.) You are invited to submit questions on senior issues.

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