You Need to Ask

By Susan Murray, M.A., M.S., CFCS, CFLE, LMFT

Photo by Pixabay

How long has it been since you’ve had aconversation with your parents about their finances?  If you are like most people, the likely answer would be, “Never!”

Questions related to financial concerns and end of life issues are some of the hardest to ask our parents, even though we are adults. However, your parents may surprise you and be ready to have this conversation, so take the risk. You’ll never know unless you ask!

1. Who is advising you on financial issues? Although most are fiercely private about their finances and want to maintain their independence, it's important in case of an emergency that you know how to contact your parent's attorney, financial advisor, accountant, and insurance agent/s.

2. Who will help manage your finances in the coming years?  Have you named a durable power of attorney? The DPOA is considered one of the most important personal legal documents for any older adult to have. This is someone who can make financial decisions on their behalf should they no longer be mentally competent.

3. What resources do you have to use for living expenses in retirement? This includes retirement benefits, Social Security benefits, veteran’s benefits, cash, lifetime income annuities, etc.  

4. What kind of health insurance do you have? Unless your parents are adequately insured, a prolonged illness or injury could threaten their retirement. Ask if they have a Medicare supplement plan or long term care insurance to help pay for their care.

5. What kind of life insurance do you have? If your parents have term life insurance, find out when it expires. If they have full life insurance (sometimes termed permanent), see how it fits into their overall estate plans

6. Do you have an updated will or living trust? Is an executor named? This can help make sure your parents medical wishes are upheld in the event of a medical emergency.  Be sure the original isn’t in a locked safety deposit box, as that will be inaccessible unless you are named on their bank account as well.

7. What kind of funeral arrangements have been made and with whom? If there aren’t financial and location provisions already in place, you may have to ask the even harder question about if they wish to buried or cremated, and what is to be done with their remains. Some other questions would be, “What do you want on your tombstone?” “What do you want said or done in your funeral or memorial service?”

8. Do you anticipate needing financial or other kinds of support? We're living longer than ever, which means more people are outliving their retirement savings. Ask your parents whether they have enough to sustain themselves for the rest their lives. If not, how much support will they need? They may also need at home assistance, someone to drive them to appointments, etc.

9. Where is all this stuff? If your parent has an accident, stroke or heart attack, the last thing you want to worry about is what his Social Security number is, what health insurance she has, or whether the mortgage has been paid. That's why it's important to sit down before a crisis hits and find out what kind of bill-paying system is in place, and where important papers are located. Although some may balk at sharing this kind of personal information, reassure your parents that you don't have to see these private papers now -- you just need to know where they are to ensure their financial well-being in the event they aren’t able to take care of it themselves.

10. What else would you like me to know?