If things are going well in your life, you probably have many things for which to be thankful. And you are particularly fortunate if you have elderly parents who are still in good physical and mental condition. While your parents are healthy, you should take the opportunity to discuss matters of significance – such as their financial situation.
There are probably many things you’d rather do than talk about finances with your parents -but it’s a conversation you need to have, because there is a lot that you need to discover. So, find a comfortable time in which to talk to your parents, approach the subject in as unemotional a manner as possible, and try to elicit the following pieces of information:
Location of investments – It isn’t necessarily essential that you know precisely which investments and life insurance policies your parents own. But it is important that you know some things. Do they work with a financial advisor? If so, whom? Are their investments and life insurance policies spread out among a variety of financial institutions? You’ll need to be familiar with these things in case your parents become incapacitated or die unexpectedly. You can avoid “unclaimed” property, including investments, from slipping through the cracks if you are aware of these details.
Insurance Coverage for Health and Medical Needs – Long-term care and health care expenses can be a major concern of the elderly. That’s why you need to know who’s insuring your parents and where your parents keep information related to their insurance policies. You should also have a basic understanding of any health insurance program they may have through a current or former employer for the payment of doctors’ bills, some prescription drugs and related services. And even so, your parents may need supplemental insurance policies. Of course, the chances are pretty good that your parents already know all these things; nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt to make sure they’re well informed and that their health-care bills are under control.
Existence of a Will – If you don’t know if your parents have a Will now is the time to find out. And if they don’t have a Will, urge them to have one prepared. Your parents have worked hard all their lives and they undoubtedly want their assets distributed according to their wishes, and not according to a court’s decree, which is what would happen if they die “intestate” (without a Will). Even if your parents have a simple Will, they may still need to take further action. If you believe they have a sizable estate or want to give significant gifts to charitable groups, encourage them to consult with a lawyer who specializes in estate planning.
Willingness to create power of attorney – By creating a durable power of attorney, your parents will name someone to make financial and/or health care decisions on their behalf should they become unable to do so. As you might suspect, this is a sensitive topic, so you’ll want to approach it with great care. By bringing up these issues with your parents, you can gain some valuable knowledge of their financial situation today – and a clearer understanding of what you can do to help them in the future.
Member Canadian Investor Protection Fund
Jodi Nastor, CFP
390 McNabb Street Unit 2