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Talk to Aging Parents About Finances

Elderly father and adult son talking about financesThis is one conversation that calls for tact and sensitivity. When you notice that your parents are slowing down because of age or illness, it’s time to reach out to them and offer support.

You can initiate the conversation even if they seem fit and independent. The important thing is to discuss their finances and caregiving preferences as a family.

When to reach out. If you live far away from your aging parents, try having the talk during your next trip home. Consider bringing up the subject in a phone call prior to your trip, or if you live in town, your next visit. Consider a nonthreatening approach such as mentioning that you have been thinking about your future financial plans and want to go over some matters that involve them.

Set the tone. Be respectful and nonjudgmental. Remain so, even if your parents seem hesitant to talk. Stay positive. Present the discussion as a way of exploring together how to make their lives more manageable. Let them know you are available to help them when they need it.

One thing at a time. If they continue to be reluctant, you might want to try talking about one thing at a time — for example, knowing where to locate contact information and documents.

Get organized. It’s a good idea to make a list of the financial information you’ll need to gather in order to assist your aging parents. Then, when they’re ready to talk, you’ll know where to start.

Here’s a checklist to start with:

  • Know where to locate important documents such as a will, marriage and birth certificates, military records, titles to property, insurance policies, power of attorneys, advanced directives such as a living will, financial account information, mortgages and other debts and tax returns.
  • Develop a list of contact information, phone and emails for your parents’ advisors, such as an attorney, financial advisor and life insurance agent.
  • Learn the location and contents of your parents’ safe deposit box.
  • Track down health insurance information for your parents such as Medicare, Medicaid and supplemental insurance.
  • Make a contact list of your aging parents’ doctors and note details of any medications that your parents are taking, including where their prescriptions are filled.
  • Talk over your parents’ expenses and develop a strategy for meeting their living and medical expenses if something were to happen.

Discuss caregiving options. Would your parents be open to moving to a retirement community with continuing care options or to an assisted living facility if their health should worsen? Do your parents have long-term care insurance that would cover the cost of having an aide assist them in their home?