Savvy Senior: Essential Topics You Need to Discuss with Your Aging Partner

My siblings and I don’t know much about our elderly parents’ financial situation or their wishes if and when something happens to them. They are both around 80 years old. What is the best way to handle this and what do we need to know?

Worried girl

Dear apprehensive people,

Many adult children don’t know much about their aging parents’ financial situation or end-of-life plans, but they need to. It’s important to stay up-to-date on their finances, insurance policies, long-term care plans, and other information because one day you may need to help them manage their financial affairs or their care, or to carry out their estate plan after their death. Without this information, your job becomes much more difficult. Here are some tips that can help you.

Have the conversation

If you’re not comfortable talking to your parents about this, use this column as a prompt or check out TheConversationProject.org, which has free guides that can help you start these discussions.

It’s also a good idea to involve all your siblings. This can help you avoid possible hard feelings, and with other people involved, your parents will know that everyone is concerned.

When you speak with your parents, you will need to gather some information, find out where they keep key documents and how they want certain things to be handled when they die or become incapacitated. Here is a checklist of areas to focus on.

PERSONAL INFORMATIONS

  • Contacts: Make a list of names and phone numbers of doctors, lawyers, accountants, brokers, tax preparers, insurance agents, etc. of your parents.
  • Medical information: Make a copy of their medical history and a list of medications they are taking.
  • Personal Documents: Find out where they keep their Social Security card, marriage certificate, military discharge papers, etc.
  • Secure Locations: Make a list of locations they keep under lock and key, such as safes, combination safes, security alarms, etc.
  • Digital assets: Make a list of their digital assets, from social media accounts to online banking. It should include usernames and passwords.
  • Pets: If they have a pet, what are their instructions for caring for the pet?
  • End of life: What are their wishes regarding organ or body donation, and their funeral instructions? If they have made prior arrangements with a funeral home, obtain a copy of the agreement.

LEGAL DOCUMENTS

  • Will: Do they have an updated will or trust, and where is it located?
  • Power of Attorney: Do they have a power of attorney that appoints someone to manage their financial affairs in the event of their incapacity?
  • Advance directives: Do they have a living will and a medical power of attorney specifying their wishes regarding their end-of-life medical treatment? If they haven’t prepared these documents, now is the time to do them.

FINANCIAL RECORDS

  • 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: mortgages, car loans, student loans, medical bills, credit card debt. Also make a list of all credit and charge cards, including card numbers and contact details.
  • Company Benefits: Make a list of any retirement plans, pensions, or benefits from their former employers, including contact information for the benefits administrator.
  • Insurance: Make a list of the insurance policies they have (life, long-term care, home, auto, Medicare, etc.), including policy numbers, agents, and phone numbers.
  • Property: Make a list of real estate, vehicles or other properties they own, rent or lease and where they keep deeds, titles and loan or lease agreements.
  • Taxes: Find out where they keep copies of last year’s tax returns.

You’re probably not going to understand all of this in one meeting, so it’s important to continue the conversation to ensure that your parents’ wishes are carried out accurately.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, PO Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of the book “The Savvy Senior.”


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