Elderly Parent can't handle their bill paying anymore - options

Hi, the time has come where my dad can't handle his bill paying. I have a POA and he is willing for me to do it. 

The problem is that I live in another country and haven't lived in the States for over 20 years, back when things were done by mail using checks. I hoped for advice if I should do it or if I should hire someone and who/how much?

If I do it, the questions are - how do people pay bills in the US these days? I assume I will need to set up access to his bank accounts, but what else? for example will I need to access his emails too in order to set up access (to confirm account, change password etc)? List of bills I need to look for? Program to use (I'd prefer laptop not phone app). Any tips or info would be appreciated. (I fly back to visit about 2x a year so will not be setting this all up from far).

I would probably prefer to have a professional bill payer but I'm not sure if anyone would take on a small client, how to find someone affordable who is also trustworthy. Any recommendations or experience? I called the local council on aging and was recommended someone but she charged about $600 per month which my dad can't afford. He lives in Sunnyvale.

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We pay all our bills online these days. You will need access to you dad's online accounts, or set them up for him and set it to auto pay. The payments will be automatically deducted from the preferred bank account every month and you'll receive an email confirmation once the bill is paid. Most common bills are utility bills and credit card bills, there are also property tax bills if you dad owns his house. I use a program called 1password (password management app) where all my passwords are stored online. It's something to consider using so you don't have to remember multiple passwords for various accounts. 

My partner is doing in for her MIL.  All bills are received and paid online, no need to write s check our send anything through the mail.  She's also has POA and has been doing it for years.  If for some reason the bank you dad banks with doesn't allow you to connect from the country you are living just get a VPN service, costs a few dollars a month.  Just set everything up for auto-pay WITH approval.  When the bills come in the bank will give you a list of what needs to be paid and you click, click, click to approve.  If there's an unknown charge it won't be paid.

Other piece of advice I can give is protecting your dad against scammers.  The scammers are really good, take a look on YouTube so you know how the scammers are scamming older adults. What you might do is open a second bank account which only you have access to.  Hold all of the money in that account.  When dad needs some money you the bank's app to transfer the funds.  Takes less than a minute. 

You could hire someone, but if you are willing to do it, you will do a much better job and have better oversight.

Would it be possible to set up autopay and e bills for each of these accounts directly to your own bank account? That way you can just pay them automatically and then transfer money from your father's account as needed to reimburse the expenses.

We set up bill paying using the online bill paying on our bank's website.  We set it up so that the bills pay automatically just before they are due.  You will need to determine if any paperless bills currently come to your parents email address. Also, you will need to fly to your parents home to find out which bills are coming to their mailbox.  After you have a list of paperless bills and bills that come to the mailbox, then you can set them up to pay automatically.  I don't recommend anyone else but you doing this.  I have done this for my mother-in-law. If you need more information feel free to contact me.

I have almost all my bills paid automatically, either by being charged to my credit card (cable, internet, cell phone) or debited from my bank account (PG&E & EBMUD).   I even have my home/car insurance billed automatically once a year. It is very easy to set up autopay from his bank account if he gives you access to his bank account.  Non-recurring bills almost always have an option for paying online.  I would suggest having your dad add you as an additional cardholder to one of his credit cards so you could set up autopay to his card for monthly bills that will take credit cards, and for managing non-recurring bills.

This should be so easy, especially these days with most everything being online. Without even having to invoke the POA, your parent can add you to their online accounts (give you the login and password or add you on their account as a trusted person to handle things) for everything you’ll need. You could do a joint phone call and call each vendor to set this up. Banks might require something more (the POA in that case). I did this with my grandmother and now do it for my MIL. Make sure all bills are electronic/not paper and input your email instead of his so they are sent to your email address, use auto pay for those you can do that for, and if bills any slip through via snail mail, your parent can take a picture and email it to you for payment. 

This is actually a pretty simple thing to do yourself, after some setup. First, work with your dad to make a list of all the bills he has to pay each month. Then:

1) create, or get his usernames and passwords for, online accounts for each of the companies he pays, such as mortgage, utilities, credit cards and so on.

2) get his usernames and passwords for email addresses, credit cards and bank accounts.

It should make it easier to get 1 and 2 by dialing into his computer and sharing the screen with zoom or teamviewer. Do not have him email you any of these. Another option is simply for him to give them to you on the phone,

Once you have access to all of this, you can set thing up to receive all his bills:

1) first, change everything possible to paperless billing with you as the email recipient. In many cases you can have more than one recipient, so your Dad can get it too. 
2) many banks have the ability to receive bills directly to your account, as well. 

Finally, you can automate payment several ways:

for utilities, have them billed directly to a credit card.

For mortgage, rent, health insurance or other fixed bills you can’t pay with a credit card, have it automatically paid each month using the online bill pay service of his bank. Check the paperless bills monthly to be sure they got paid and that amounts did not change.

Then simply check and pay the credit card bills each month using online bill pay and you should be good to go. You can also have these automatically paid from his bank account, but I advise checking the bills first to be sure he didn’t get scammed or the card stolen or something, 

Also make a list of intermittent bills like property tax, estimated tax and others where you won’t get an email bill but you know the date they are due so you can pay online when the time comes. It’s easy to pay all taxes online.

If he has household help like a gardener or cleaner, have them send bills to you and pay them via online bill pay.

Bottom line is that pretty much everything can be done online these days. Can’t remember the last time I wrote a check. 

 

once you 

You should be able to do everything online.  Set up shared bank accounts (I added my name to my mom’s account when I did this for her; she had to sign of course).  Using bill pay from your shared bank account shouldn’t be either time consuming or difficult.  Make sure the bills are coming to a shared email, and off you go.  My moms bills were pretty steady at that point in her life (housing, utilities, newspaper, cable, one credit card) and I imagine most older folks’ are as well. I wouldn’t think you need to hire someone, just gather up all the info and make sure you’re seeing the bills, then pay electronically. Good luck.  

Hi,

I performed this service for my mother (Vermont & Florida banks) and years later for my stepfather (Florida and Minnesota banks). They have both since passed. 
My mother had set up on-line billpay for all her accounts and had email notification for everything. So that was easy to take over and I just used her existing passcodes for everything. Her social security and IRA distributions were auto-deposited.

Working with my step-father was a more difficult transition as he both had dementia and denied he wasn’t taking care of everything. He could talk like he was on top of energy thing but wasn’t. His electric power was cut off twice for nonpayment before I stepped in. I was POA but in Florida a POA cannot do online banking for someone. Only check writing. That was super inconvenient! We moved him to assisted living memory care in MN to be near family and the banking system was more accommodating. I guess those POA rules are by state. We went in together to set up the account. I went to the bank the day before with the POA documents and questions. With a banker I basically set up the account with online banking and a debit card for me. When I brought my stepfather in he was treated like a VIP and signed here and there and we were done. He was happy to have a checkbook. 
I had the toughest time with medical & hospital bills because they kept sending the bills to him. The medical billing systems were quite old-fashioned. 
I changed all his billing addresses to mine in Berkeley and did his mail-forwarding from Florida to me as well. Together we did a change-of-address Holiday card for friends to his new MN address. (The worst part was getting his Tea Party and pro-Guns mailings.) An advantage of doing the bills was that when they each passed it was easier to tie up loose ends and I knew their financial situations well. I was executor, as well, for both of them. 
I’m wishing you all the best with this significant transition. It was a pain AND I was also glad to have the additional connection with them and was relieved to know all was well financially. Mom’s been gone for 8 years and Dick for 1.5. I miss them! 
 

Actually my wife handles all our bill payments, but this is what I think would be a good solution for your situation ( and it is how we do it):

Does your father have a bank account in the US?   Is it a joint  account where you can make withdrawals? 

Wells Fargo Bank in the US has this kind of setup and I suppose other banks do also:

You can access the bank account on line with a password.  Using that password access you can set up periodic or one-time payments to people or companies using a feature called "Bill Pay."   This is good for such things as monthly credit card bills that vary from month to month.  You  don;t want to miss a payment and get charged a late fee, so you schedule an automatic payment from the account for a certain amount, and then before the payment is made, you change the amount to the exact amount due.  (for credit cards it is best to pay it off each month to avoid interest charges).    Other things like the electric bill, water bill, etc. you can pay more than a typical month each month  and run a credit and adjust it occasionally.

As for what bills to consider, if he has been paying bills by check, and you have access to the bank account, you can see what payment she makes regularly and set up Bill Pay for each of the regular bills -- some come quarterly , others monthly, and maybe some are annual.  You schedule the payments and the amounts on line.

I suggest you set up a joint bank account and then get on a three way zoom call with a banker and your father.  They should be able to walk you through the steps to set up automatic payments.

I had to do the same for a relative who lives 3500 miles away. 
1. Set up online banking for your dad’s checking account. 
2. Set up an online account for each company that needs to be paid and set it up so the online statements are emailed to you. 
3. Set up each monthly/reoccurring bill as an autopay from his checking account. Just make sure he has enough money in that account to pay all his bills each month. 
4. For bills that are semi-annual or annual that can’t be paid automatically, put an alert on your calendar to remind you that the online statements are coming. Pay online via PayPal or Venmo or Zelle or if online payment not allowed, by check when you’re in town. 
Good luck with this! It’s hard to be a caregiver from afar. 

I think most (all?) banks offer an online bill-pay option through your checking account these days, without needing a separate program - so you'll need access to his email (like you said, to receive bills and confirmations as you set things up), and access to his bank account info to set up the account since it sounds like he's not already using online bill-pay. Once it's set up you should be able to pay bills through the bank website from wherever you are. You may also want to see how many of them you can set up for autopay (set it up through the provider, like PG&E, insurance company, etc.), if you're confident that there will always be sufficient funds in the account to cover them. That way the funds will automatically come out of a checking account or onto a credit card every month, and then you just have to pay the credit card bill and not all the individual bills. I've done this sort of service in the past for clients who were temporarily out of the country, sort of your situation in reverse. If you're looking to hire someone, look for a virtual assistant, they're more likely to take on a relatively small task like this than an accountant, and might be able to help with other remote tasks as well. Just make sure you get and check references!

I do this for my grandmother who lives in Canada, and I help my friend who lives in France do this for her mom who lives in US.

You can definitely do it, you don't need to pay someone. You need to get your email address listed on all his accounts and get him signed up for paperless billing, so that all the bills come to you. And you need online access to his bank account. You using his log in credentials does NOT work because they may want to do a two-step verification which will cause problems.

It will be much easier to set up everything for the first time while you are in the US. All US banks have an online "bill pay" feature and the bank website should give directions on how to use it. So then you just log in and pay the bills. You can set up recurring payments too. The POA is not actually necessary but probably best to give/email a copy to each relevant institution so that if you do need to contact them, you can.

And speaking of contacting folks, most credit cards, etc. have 800 numbers that don't work from outside the US. So you need to be sure you have a number to call for each entity.

Once in a while you may run into a website that you cannot access from where you are.  You can use a VPN (virtual private network) to circumvent this. Astrill is one. https://www.astrill.com/a/z6yduvddpmmj But I doubt you will need this.

As far as "list of bills" to look for; have your dad store up everything for a month till you come. Then, ideally there is someone near your dad who you trust who can take a photo of any new bills/tax statements that come in bc of course some things are not monthly. And as you go through the first year, you might want to set up calendar reminders for yourself (eg garbage bill may be quarterly, etc).

Taxes are another issue. You should pay someone to file those but it can be any tax prep company (like HR Block or whatever; if he has already been paying someone to do his taxes then probably best to stick with that person/company since they will already know what's what). You will need to assemble all the documents (they start arriving in January and some you can find online, like retirement accounts, etc). And then the tax prep companies generally have an online portal to submit and since you have the POA, you can sign. There is a small fee but you can always ask them to file for an extension which gives you until 10/15. 

And then to avoid elder abuse/fraud, you probably want to cancel all credit cards except one and monitor the charges (ie check each month to see what is being charged on it) and lower the amount that can be removed in one day via his debit card to $200 or whatever you and he think is a reasonable amount. 

I took over bill paying and financial management for my elderly father over four years ago after the death of his wife, who had handled all the bills. I streamlined everything as much as possible. I set up one savings account and one checking account, on which I have power of attorney, so I can write checks when needed and gain access to the accounts. I set up one credit card account (with a card for me, too) for general purchases, His monthly assisted living bill and Kaiser Medicare bill are set up on auto pay. I order things from Amazon using our joint credit card, and have them delivered. It's very streamlined and easy to do. I don't think you need to hire someone. Most everything is handled electronically. Setting up the power of attorney on the bank account requires a notary, so that part needs to be done in person. If your dad needs or wants cash, you would need to do that for him when you visit. You can definitely do this. Just keep it simple and set up any bills on auto pay. Good luck!

You should be able to do assist with most of your dad's bills remotely. Almost all bills can be paid either using a credit card or through your dad's bank (bill pay or equivalent). If you use the bank, you will need a routing and account number (printed on the check). I charge as much as possible on the credit card because there's more consumer protection in case your credit card or bank information gets stolen and used. I also set up alerts on my phone whenever I get a charge to my credit card or debit (bank) to ensure no unauthorized person is using it.  

You would need the account numbers and an email address (to recieve the billing statements and let you know when payment is due) to swtich from paper/mail to electronic payments. They may also ask for other identifying information like DOB, SSN when setting up the online account.  

The credit card and bank statements can be sent via email and accessed online as well. 

List of normal bills: PG+E (electric, gas), Water and Garbage Company (name depends on your county), cable/internet/phone company, credit cards, subscription services for meal delivery/magazines, gym, fastrak (bridge toll), Amazon for shopping, HOA?

Not sure what county your dad is in...but for SF county, the mortage bill comes in the regular mail. You can pay online though. 

Mint is a helpful program that can link all of his accounts.

Yes, you can do it all via laptop. You can either set up logins for his accounts under his name, or supply all of the accounts with the PoA and use your name/email.  I do this for my elderly mother. She can no longer pay bills or use a computer/email. For the bank accounts and her medical insurance, I have sent in the PoA and log in as myself. For the utilities, insurance, property tax, Comcast, etc, I have it in her name, but I’m still the one logging in.  I have everything on autopay except for her property taxes. It barely even takes a couple of hours every month.

If you can get electronic access to the bank account that everything is paid out of, you can see what bills are being paid.  For instance I can click on my Mom’s statement and actually see a copy of her cleared checks.  

Every so often I have to make a single payment for something and I just get the person’s or company’s name and address and set up a check to be mailed from her bank via electronic Bill Pay.  She does have a credit card that she uses for basic shopping.

As someone who has gone through this transition in the past year with an elderly parent, I can share what worked for us:

- Most U.S. bills can be paid online nowadays. If not already paid online, you can usually start online access with each company and the bill can be switched to online payment. The bill also can usually be set to autopay at a set date each month. If you're nervous about being hit by a large bill, you can pay manually until you feel comfortable with the pattern of bill payments. (Keep a list of the due dates).

- Access to bank accounts can be through the parent's login credentials, at first, but most banks also allow for an additional person to be officially designated to login to the account. You may need to show POA at the bank for this access (depends on the bank).

- For simplicity, you may want to run all of the bills through one bank account (if it's possible).

- Keep everything organized on a spreadsheet. 

Online bill payment is much easier than mailing checks (especially if you set it to auto-pay and run payments through 1 bank account, which you can monitor once a month). After the initial setup, it's not that much work. I haven't needed to hire someone else. Best of luck making this transition.

If you set up automated payments, remember some bills only come once a year, such as the real estate tax.  You don't want to lose your property for being tax delinquent!