For a long time, we were entitled to only an annual credit report from the three reporting agencies: EquifaxEFX, Experian and TransUnion. Now you can get a report weekly and for free. When you get a parent’s credit report, you can find a lot of information. Your aging parents may be spending more than they or you realize. They may have multiple credit cards you don’t know about. Even worse, they may be unable to competently track and pay their bills and have unpaid debts. That can cause some serious problems for you down the road.
One important factor to bear in mind is that when an elder begins to show signs of short term memory loss, it is a sign of potential trouble ahead. Memory loss is a warning of the development of cognitive decline, and possible dementia coming. It may not be diagnosed early on. It may not be serious at the beginning, when you first notice that Mom or Dad is getting so forgetful. But it is something to take seriously.
When cognitive impairment develops, it affects function. Lots of things can go downhill, but the one of the very first abilities to diminish is the capacity to manage finances. That is exactly why it is smart to check your aging parents’ credit reports. They may not even know they have unpaid debt, too many credit cards or overdue loan payments, but you will see those things. You then have the opportunity to address them immediately.
What You Can Get For Free
You can get the free weekly reports here. A word of caution: go to this official site only. If your aging parents undertake the task, they can be easily fooled into getting onto a site designed to steal their information and identity. And, the credit reporting agencies do not give a credit score. It’s apparently their way of getting you to pay them for that. The suggestion I offer here is not to find out aging parents’ credit score, but to see if their financial activities recorded by these agencies show you, the family, any signs of poor financial management.
When You See Trouble
Let’s imagine you’ve done it, gotten Dad’s credit report and it looks pretty bad. He has forgotten to pay a lot of bills and he has no idea of that problem. He, or any other elder in your life who is supposedly managing the bills and debts, is just not keeping track of finances. The picture is larger than just the credit report itself.
Here at AgingParents.com, we frequently consult with families of an elder who is showing signs of being unable to manage finances. We advise them to seek legal advice right away from the family’s estate planning attorney. There is information you need about whether Dad or other elder is legally in charge of the family’s estate. Is he the trustee? That means he can make all important financial decisions. It may be time to ask him to resign from that position. If he resists, as many do, get the lawyer’s advice as to what it will take to remove him from the position that may endanger his, or the family’s financial safety.
That language is spelled out in the family trust, if there is one. And some estate planning lawyers use outdated software to put that language in trusts, and unwittingly create nightmares for families who can’t comply with the huge obstacles lawyers created. Note this: typically, lawyers don’t know enough about dementia because the subject is not usually taught in law schools.
No one who is cognitively impaired to a significant degree should be managing their money and other assets. They can make bad decisions, be subject to fraud, or lose what they worked hard to achieve in their earlier lives. They are absolutely more likely to become victims of financial exploitation.
1. Get the free credit report for your aging loved ones regularly, now that it’s available weekly. When you see a bad report, take action. Do not allow the poor financial management indicators to continue. Your aging parents could be wiped out if you let it slide.
2. When your aging parent resists allowing anyone else to step in, get professional advice about how to manage this issue. Their financial safety as they age could depend on it.
Do you have difficult aging parents who refuse to let you help? Are you frustrated with their resistance? Get competent advice on how you can handle this at AgingParents.com. We’re a nurse-lawyer, psychologist team ready to help you. Call to set up an appointment today at 866-964-4464
By Carolyn Rosenblatt, RN, Elder Law Attorney, AgingParents.com