How to write an online will

Dear Savvy Senior: What tips can you offer on helping an elderly parent with their finances? My 84-year-old father is having trouble keeping up with his bills and insurance, and I just found out that he’s been making contributions to a suspicious charity. —

Reluctant Daughter

Dear Reluctant: Many adult children serve as financial helpers to their elderly or ill parents. They provide services like paying bills, handling deposits and investments, filing insurance claims, preparing taxes and more.

Taking on the task of helping an elderly parent with their finances can be a sensitive and difficult topic. The first step in helping your dad is to have a respectful talk with him expressing your concerns, as you stated in your question, and offering to help him with his financial chores. If you have siblings, it can be a good idea to get them involved. This can help you head off any possible hard feelings, and, with others involved, your dad will know everyone is concerned.

If your dad is willing to let you help manage, monitor or take over his financial affairs your first order of business is to get organized by making a list of his financial accounts and other important information. Your list should include his:

Contact list: Names and numbers of key contacts like insurance agents, financial advisor, tax preparer, family attorney, etc.

Monthly bills: Phone, cable, water and trash, gas, electric, credit card accounts, etc.

Financial accounts: Including bank accounts, brokerage and mutual fund accounts, safe-deposit boxes and any other financial assets. Get usernames and passwords for financial accounts set up online.

Company benefits: Any retirement plans, pensions or health benefits from his current or former employer.

Insurance policies: Life, home, auto, long-term care, Medicare, etc.

Taxes: Copies of your dad’s income tax returns over the past few years.

This is also the ideal time to find out if your dad has the following essential legal documents: A will or advance directive that includes a living will and health-care proxy, which allows you or another family member or friend to make medical decisions on his behalf if he becomes incapacitated; and a durable power of attorney, which gives you or a designated person similar legal authority for financial decisions.

If he doesn’t have these important documents prepared, now is the time to do it. If they are prepared, make sure they’re updated and you know where they’re located.

The quickest way to help your dad simplify his monthly financial chores is to set up automatic payments for utilities and other routine bills and arrange for direct deposit of income sources.

If your dad has savings and investments scattered in many different accounts, you should consider consolidating them. You can also set up your dad’s bank system and investment accounts online so you can pay bills and monitor his accounts anytime.

To guard against scams and risky financial behaviors, consider getting your dad a True Link Visa Prepaid Card (TrueLinkFinancial.com/card). Designed for older adults with cognitive issues, this card would provide your dad access to his money but with restrictions that you set on how funds can be spent. Check out EverSafe.com, a web-based service that will automatically monitor your dad’s accounts, track suspicious activity and alert you when a problem is detected.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.