Don’t Wait to Ask Aging Parents These Important Questions

It’s human nature to put off complicated or emotionally heavy tasks. Talking with aging parents about their finances, health, and overall well-being might fall in this category.

However, the best time to start this conversation is when your parents are relatively healthy. Otherwise, you may find yourself making critical decisions on their behalf in the midst of a crisis without a roadmap. Below are some pointers to help you get started.

Finances

  1. Ask them to create a list of their bank, brokerage, and retirement accounts, including account numbers, name(s) on accounts, and online user names and passwords. Find out where their insurance policies (life, home, auto, disability, long-term care), Social Security cards, titles to their house and vehicles, outstanding loan documents, and past tax returns are stored. Also ask if they use online bill pay.
  2. Ask if they work with any financial, legal, or tax professionals. If so, ask them for their contact information and whether they would find it helpful if you attended meetings with them.
  3. Find out if they have a durable power of attorney. This is a legal document that allows a named individual to manage all aspects of a parent’s financial life if the parent becomes disabled or incompetent.
  4. Ask if they have a will, and find out where it is and who is named as executor. Also ask if they have any specific personal property disposition requests they want to discuss.
  5. Find out if their beneficiary designations are up-to-date. These designations on your parents’ insurance policies, pensions, IRAs, and investment accounts will trump any instructions in their will.
  6. Ask if they have an overall estate plan or trust.

Health

  1. Find out what doctors they are currently seeing and if they are happy with the care they’re receiving.
  2. Ask what medications they are taking and if they are able to manage dosage instructions. Also find out what pharmacy they use.
  3. Find out what health insurance they currently have. You may also want to discuss the need for long-term care insurance.
  4. Ask if they have an advance medical directive (a document expressing your parents’ wishes regarding life-support measures and designating someone to communicate with health-care professionals on their behalf.)

Living situation

  1. Find out if they plan to stay in their current home for the foreseeable future, or if they are considering downsizing.
  2. Discuss whether they would benefit from a weekly or monthly cleaning service.
  3. Ask them if they employ certain people or companies for home maintenance projects (e.g., heating contractor, plumber, electrician, fall cleanup) and get their contact information.

Memorial wishes

  1. Ask if they want to be buried or cremated and if they have a burial plot picked out.
  2. Discuss any specific requests or wishes they have for their memorial service.

Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2016.

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