I sometimes work with adults who are managing their senior parent’s paperwork. Due to physical or cognitive decline, the person has been put in charge of their parent’s financial and other important documents. Sometimes the parent has moved to assisted living, or a rehabilitation or a nursing care facility, or they may have moved into their child’s home.
7 Tips for Organizing a Senior Parent’s Paperwork:
1. Gather all documents together
Begin by gathering all papers from their previous home into one area. Important documents may have been scattered all over their living space, so first gather those into one room, closet, or file cabinet, whatever space you have available.
2. Sort through to determine what to keep or shred
A large portion of this paperwork may be junk mail or outdated information or statements. Do a quick sort first to remove anything that should be recycled or shredded.
3. Set aside keepsake papers
Sometimes old photographs, awards, wedding invitations, birth announcements, etc. may be mixed in with this paperwork. Set aside a minimal number of these keepsakes, and store these in a labeled box, album, shelf or drawer, or perhaps share these with other family members).
4. Organize the important paperwork that remains
Sort important paperwork into labeled folders or drawers (or scan papers, if these are things you can store digitally, storing them in labeled folders, and backing up the hard drive). Store all paperwork in one area, such as a file box or file cabinet. Set aside one safe place to protect irreplaceable papers, such as in a locked fireproof and waterproof safe.
Examples of important paperwork to retain:
- Tax documents
- Social Security Card
- Birth Certificate
- Marriage Certificate
- Medical Records
- Health, Dental and Vision Insurance information
- Life Insurance Policies
- Disability Insurance Policies
- Stock Information
- Automobile Insurance, or loan or sale information if they have or recently sold a vehicle.
- Records of the Sale of their Residence (if sold).
- Estate Planning Documents
- Checking Account Statements
- Credit Card Statements
- Any current bills that you are responsible for paying on their behalf.
5. Store labeled folders by category
When organizing these papers, store categories near one another, such as all insurances together, all healthcare and medical information together, all financial statements together, all estate planning documents together, and information related to their current home or retirement community in one place.
6. Keep track of all regularly occurring bills
If there are bills you pay on your parent’s behalf, set up online bill pay, or a spreadsheet to help you track these. You may want to set up a small inbox in your home to hold your parent’s incoming mail until you can process it. Schedule a time to process their mail, pay bills, and verify that all of their accounts are balanced.
7. Leave room to grow
Make sure the file cabinet or file box has space for new files to be added, such as the current year’s tax documents, medical records, and health insurance statements.