Thursday February 22, 2024
Essential Topics to Discuss with Aging Parents
Many adult children have limited information regarding their elderly parents’ financial situation or end-of-life plans. Getting up to speed on parents’ finances, insurance policies, long-term care plans and other information is important so you can help with their financial affairs, caregiving or executing their estate plan when needed. Without this information, it is much more difficult to navigate these situations. Here are some tips that can help.
Have the Conversation
If you are uncomfortable talking to your parents about these topics, you can use this column as a prompt or visit TheConversationProject.org, which offers free guides that can help you start these conversations. It may also be a good idea to encourage your siblings to participate in these discussions to help avoid any possible hard feelings. Having the whole family involved also demonstrates to your parents that everyone is collectively concerned.
The conversation with your parents, will help you collect information, find out where they keep key documents and learn how they want certain things handled if they become incapacitated or pass away. Here is a checklist of areas to focus on.
• Contacts: Make a list of names and phone numbers of your parents’ doctors, lawyers, accountants, brokers, tax preparers, insurance agents and any other advisors.
• Medical information: Make a copy of their medical history and a list of medications they take.
• Personal documents: Find out where they keep their Social Security card, marriage license, military discharge papers and any other important documents.
• Secured places: Make a list of places they keep safeguarded such as safe deposit boxes, safe combination and security alarms.
• Digital assets: Make a list of their digital assets – including social media accounts and online banking accounts. The list should include usernames and passwords.
• Pets: If they have a pet, what are their instructions for the animal’s care?
• End of life: What are their wishes for organ or body donation, and their funeral instructions? If they have made pre-arrangements with a funeral home, get a copy of the agreement.
• Will: Do they have an updated will or trust? Where is it located?
• Power of attorney: Do they have a power of attorney that names someone to handle their financial matters if they become incapacitated?
• Advance directives: Do they have a living will and a medical power of attorney that spells out their wishes regarding their end-of-life medical treatment? If they do not have these documents prepared, now is the time to prepare them.
• Financial accounts: Make a list of their bank accounts, brokerage and mutual fund accounts, and any other financial assets they have.
• Debts and liabilities: Make a list of any loans, leases or debts they have – including mortgages, car loans, student loans, medical bills and credit card debts. Also, make a list of all credit and charge cards, including the card numbers and contact information.
• Company benefits: Make a list of any retirement plans, pensions or benefits from their former employers including the contact information of the benefits administrator.
• Insurance: Make a list of the insurance policies they have (life, long-term care, home, auto or Medicare) including the policy numbers, agents and phone numbers.
• Property: Make a list of the real estate, vehicles or other properties they own, rent or lease and where they keep the deeds, titles and loan or lease agreements.
• Taxes: Find out where they keep copies of past year’s tax returns.
It is unlikely that all of this information with be gathered at one time. As such, it is important to keep the conversation going to ensure your parents’ wishes are accurately executed.
Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.