Is it time to talk finances with your parents?

One day you may find yourself taking care of an elderly parent who is in declining physical or mental health. This can be stressful, both emotionally and financially. On the financial side, there are steps you may want to take to prepare for this situation.

 Talk to your parents about their financial affairs. Parents may be reluctant to discuss their finances, but someone needs to know the names of their lawyer and accountant. Someone needs to know where their important financial papers are located. Chances are that much of the information will be in your parents’ heads, or scattered in various places around their house.

Here’s a general overview of the topics you might want to cover with your parents.

Vital statistics

• Where are social security cards kept?

• Where are marriage or divorce records and family birth certificates?

• Where are military service records and pension records?

Financial records

• Help your parents make a list of their financial assets, bank accounts, investments, etc.

• Review the beneficiaries they have designated and how accounts are titled.

• Do they have a safe deposit box? Record the location and box number.

• Find the name of their accountant and copies of tax returns.

Physical assets

• Locate mortgage records and the deed to their house and other properties.

• Locate vehicle titles.

• Do they own any assets stored elsewhere?


• Locate records for home, vehicle, health, and life insurance.

Estate planning

• Do they have a will or living trust?

• What is the name of their attorney?

• Discuss any special wishes for bequests; encourage your parents to put them in writing.

• Have they set up directives for medical care (living wills)?

• Have they set up a Power of Attorney in case they become disabled?

Don’t try to find all this information in one exhausting session. Instead, use the list as a starting point for a series of conversations. Wherever possible, involve your parents in putting their own affairs in order. You may find it’s a great opportunity to bond with your parents in their golden years.

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