Certified financial planner Sean Fletcher of San Francisco knew his dad had an estate plan, complete with a health care directive detailing what medical treatment should be given in an emergency. When the father had a massive heart attack, though, no one knew where he kept those documents.
Fletcher's family was lucky: An aunt found the paperwork in a closet. His mother was able to stop treatment according to his father's wishes so that he could die more peacefully.
"Despite her misgivings, I believe this minor miracle gave my mom the confidence to carry out what she had agreed to do," Fletcher says.
It's not enough to be organized and responsible. We need to think about who will be responsible next. Fortunately, there are several sites that can facilitate that transition for our aging parents — and also for ourselves.
In fact, the best way to introduce these sites to your parents may be to use them yourself. That way, you'll be familiar with how they work and can vouch for their helpfulness in getting information to the people who will need it.
Whealthcare was co-founded by two people who specialize in the areas where health care meets finances: physician-turned-financial-planner Carolyn McClanahan and software developer Chris Heye, whose other company, Cogniscient, develops cognitive and behavioral assessments to aid older people in making sound financial decisions.
Users answer questions on the Whealthcare site, and these assessments are used to create a "financial caretaking plan" that identifies the issues they're likely to face as they age. The service also provides a transition plan that allows trusted people to take over and a customized to-do list to make sure crucial documents are in place. (Powers of attorney allow others to make vital decisions if we're incapacitated, for example, and health care directives spell out what life-prolonging measures we do and don't want.)
Another assessment gauges a person's risk for fraud, exploitation and bad financial decision-making, and offers recommendations for protecting against those threats. A "proactive aging plan" helps people prepare for transitions in living arrangements, driving and health care decisions, allowing them to document their wishes. A feature called WhealthcareConnect can match people to financial advisers who specialize in issues facing older adults.
The annual cost is $39 for one individual plan, $69 for a couple and $149 for a family plan that includes up to five people.
Everplans is an online vault where you can store important documents, contacts, login credentials, instructions on what to do with your social media sites and anything else your family might need to know to handle your affairs. The site offers step-by-step guidance to identify and organize your important information, from insurance policies to pet care plans. If you're not comfortable uploading something to the site, you can leave instructions to help your family find what they need. You name "trusted deputies" and decide what they can access on the site, and when. You might give one deputy (say, your spouse) access to all the documents while another (perhaps your executor) gets access only after your death.
Follow trends affecting the local economy
Subscribe to our free Business by the Bay newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
The service costs $75 per year.
EverSafe monitors financial accounts for unusual activity, large transactions and other potential problems. The site alerts you via email, text or automated phone call and can be set up to signal trusted others, as well.
The basic service, which costs $7.49 per month after a 30-day free trial, monitors bank and credit card accounts and the dark web, where your personal information may be for sale. For $14.99 per month, you can add credit monitoring. For $24.99, the site will monitor investment accounts as well. An additional $4.99-per-month service monitors your home and other real estate for new liens or defaults on your property.
I found the dark web monitoring particularly interesting and was surprised at how many of my passwords had been exposed in various breaches. It was good motivation to change my passwords — and to make sure my trusted deputies could access the new ones. Because protecting all my information and accounts won't do much good if my family can't find what they need when I'm gone.
This column was provided to the Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Liz Weston is a columnist at NerdWallet, a certified financial planner and author of Your Credit Score.
RELATED LINK: NerdWallet: What is a power of attorney?