I am a baby boomer. Both my parents are alive and in relatively good health, however, they aren’t getting any younger. I’ve attempted to discuss several of these topics with my dad over the past several years. He politely assures me he has it handled and that’s the extent of the conversation, however, I don’t know what that means nor do I have any knowledge of what he or my mother truly want.
Pamela Yip, a columnist for the Dallas Morning News, wrote a column on July 21 about adult children having the “the financial talk” with their aging parents. Apparently this is tough for other families too. As I’ve thought about what Ms. Yip wrote, I’ve outlined at least 5 topics every adult child with aging parents should discuss now rather than later.
Legal Documents: Paula Hartsfield, of Hartsfield Law, wrote a guest post for me earlier this year in which she identified 5 documents people need (see http://220.127.116.11/~wiseinsu/5-reasons-need-will-now/) including a will, Durable Power of Attorney, Medical Power of Attorney, Directive to Physician (living will), and HIPAA Authorization. In addition, families should evaluate whether or not they should establish a trust.
Do your parents have these documents? If not, they need to have them drawn up and filed in a safe place. If they do exist, adult children need to know where they are and who to contact if the aging parent is unable to communicate. At least one adult child (or all the adult children) should have a list of emergency contacts such as the family attorney, physician, etc.
Long Term Care & Health Insurance: About 50% of all aging adults will require some level of living assistance. Do your parents have long term care insurance or do they need it? If they are unable to care for themselves, who do they want to provide that care and where do they want that care provided? At what point would they see transitioning into assisted living? Knowing what your parents want and what they have or have not prepared for will make this transition easier for both them and you.
Have your parents given any thought to transitioning to Medicare? Have they evaluated the various supplemental plans they may need? If not, this is an excellent time to meet with a health insurance professional who will outline what their options are and what fits their needs best.
Retirement & Finances: What do your parents see themselves doing when retirement comes? Will it be travel, volunteering, writing, painting, or something else? Have they set aside adequate retirement funds to live the way they dreamed of living? If not, what would it take to get there?
If they’ve already retired, are they living the life they’d hoped to live? Do they have enough financial resources to adequately care for themselves, maintain the home, repair the car, etc. or do they need to supplement their retirement income with a part time position?
If there are investment accounts beyond the retirement accounts, have your parents communicated what they are and where they are? Do you have the contact information for their financial planner or advisor? My father in law provides my wife and her brother with an updated listing of all their accounts each Christmas so they will know where everything is, just in case.
Life Insurance: Do your parents have life insurance policies? Does one of them or both of them have it? Where the policy documents are filed and is the beneficiary information up to date? If your parents don’t have life insurance do you need to get it for them to help with final expenses (see http://18.104.22.168/~wiseinsu/parents-need-life-insurance/)? Who is their insurance agent and do you have their contact information?
Last Wishes: What are your parents’ last wishes? Do they want to be buried or cremated? Have they prepaid for burial plots or do they want their ashes scattered in a certain place? What kind of service do they want to have, where do they want it to be, who should preside, and what kind of music if any do they want?
Discussing each of these 5 topics with our parents is important for both the aging adults, as well as the adult children. It’s important our parents know what they want and communicate with their adult children. Knowing enables the adult children to honor their parents’ wishes, understand the level of planning that’s taken place, and support the parents in whatever way is needed. It also potentially lessens or alleviates conflict between siblings, the other parent, or spouse. Think about answering these questions for your kids too! It may be time to begin talking with them about what you want and are doing in these areas!
Has it been easier for you to discuss these topics with your parents? Share how you did it! Either way, share your questions, comments, and what happened if you weren’t able to discuss them with us in the comments section of our blog or on our Google + and Facebook pages. I’d love to hear from you!