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A checklist on caring for older parents

Here are some items from Stephan R. Leinberg's checklist for people caring for aging parents:

* Get durable power of attorney for yourself, so that you can act on your parents' behalf if a need arises.

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* If your parents' estate is large enough to warrant concern about estate tax , you might want to suggest they invest in so-called ''flower bonds,'' US government bonds bought at a discount, like savings bonds, and redeemable at face value to pay federal estate tax.

* Make sure your parents have paid off any loans taken out against life insurance policies.

* If they have some property that is onerous to maintain - a farm, for example - you might suggest they sell it to you on a private-annuity basis.

* If there is a family business that you or your siblings are not interested in taking over, now is the time to shop for a buyer, to ensure that your parents get the maximum price and that what has been built up over time is maintained.

* Insist that your parents' wills be reviewed, especially if they have not been since September 12, 1981, when the provision allowing for an unlimited marital deduction took effect.

* If your parents have real property in more than one state, you might suggest they sell off and consolidate their interests now to simplify the eventual settlement of their estate - and also to get the best price for the property.

* Insist that your parents consolidate important papers, bank books, etc., into one place, with an inventory list of all these items, and a list of their financial advisers, so that if Dad has banked in six different places, for example, you and Mom will be able to find all the money.

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* Remind your parents that what planners call ''intraspousal gifts'' - deeding property, and so on, from one spouse to the other - can cut your estate down to more manageable size.

* If your parents have stock options they still haven't exercised, it might be a good idea to exercise them now.

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