The goal according to Joel Kamil, a CPA with 40 years of experience and Owner/President of Checks & Balances Plus (C&BP), is to help families look for tell tale signs that elderly family members may need some assistance with their day-to-day finances. Left unchecked loved ones may forget to pay for rent, utilities, telephone, cable TV, charge cards and other items.
“Soon seniors can begin accruing late fees and termination notices. In worst case scenarios power and telephone can be shut off and landlords may come knocking on the door asking for payments for the last three months, the end result can put a lot of stress and burden not only on the senior but also on their family,” Kamil said.
Kamil offers these tips to help families and their elderly loved ones maintain their financial health.
Review your parent’s bills each month, more often if necessary. Make sure all invoices are paid on time or according to a payment schedule. Look for late fees and other indicators that could indicate a problem.
Check bank statements and look for missing checks. Obviously you want to reconcile your parent’s check book with the bank statement, but also look to see if checks are missing. A lost check could mean your parent simply skipped over it or misplaced it, or it could mean something else. Call your bank if necessary to see if the check is in the system for processing.
Look for unusual payments to unknown individuals. Seniors are easy prey for scam artists. A visitor may come to your parent’s door, or call by phone, and “sell” them an item at a prohibitive cost. They may also write an extremely large check to a worker who helps them bring in groceries or other items, simply thinking they are repaying them for their service. Some charities prey on seniors and get very large contributions from them.
Analyze checks to ensure they are written by your loved one. Your loved one may ask a repair person or other frequent visitor to help them pay their bills. The end result may be the check writer padding their payment or writing themselves a check to the tune of a few hundred or a few thousand dollars.
Carefully look at each check to make sure they are in your parent’s handwriting. Some seniors, like my mother, suffer from macular degeneration and cannot see well enough to verify a check was written properly. This could be a problem regarding payments to family members.
Finally, assume control and responsibility for your parent’s finances. Should your loved one become totally incapable of managing their own finances it may be necessary for you to gain control over the check book, investments and other related items. A lawyer can determine your ability to serve as power of attorney. Once that control is gained the family must decide which family member will handle this responsibility. In many cases the family will decide to assign this duty to a third party to avoid conflicts and provide reporting to all family members. This task can be outsourced to a professional organization skilled in working with seniors and related financial matters.
According to Edwin D. Wolfgram, MD, “As a physician specializing in the elderly, professional assistance with bill paying is helpful. Stress is reduced for all family members and independent living may be sustained.”
ABOUT CHECKS & BALANCES PLUS
Checks & Balances Plus, LLC helps seniors and busy professionals with the task and details of organizing, managing and paying their bills each month. For a small monthly fee the firm will open, scan and pay bills monthly, help protect your accounts from fraud with established procedures and controls, track and ensure timely payments, provide a detailed monthly bill payment history and provide a summary report to help in year-end income tax preparation. Founded by Joel Kamil, a practicing St. Louis CPA with over 40 years of experience, Checks & Balances Plus is bonded, insured and an accredited member of the Better Business Bureau of Eastern Missouri with an A+ rating. For additional information visit www.cbp-stl.com or call 636-449-1298.