There are some conversations in life that are more difficult than others. Bringing up the subject of money with your aging parents or grown children has the potential to get messy. It’s a sad but true reality that our days are numbered and for the millions of aging baby boomers with their billions of combined dollars, it’s better to have those conversations now while you still can.
A couple of years ago, within a few months of each other both my father and my father-in-law sent us a list of their accounts and current net-worth statements just in case. We didn’t ask for it and were surprised they arrived so closely together. We wondered if they’d both read the same magazine article. No conversation occurred and yet we were given the information we needed just in case anything ever happened.
What you need to know financially about your aging parents.
- Where their will is located – I’ve heard too many stories of conversations never had where a parent dies and the grown kids have no idea where to find the will. You need to know where their will is located and who they have listed as the executor of their estate.
- Location of safety deposit box and key if applicable – Not everyone has a safety deposit box. For those who do, it’s often where life’s most important documents and small family heirlooms are held. You need to know how to access it.
- List of accounts with approximate balances – This helps when sorting out finances after wards. If you know where things are, it makes the job of the executor a whole lot easier.
- Any arrangements for a prepaid funeral – You’d be surprised at how many baby boomers have prepaid their funerals and haven’t mentioned this fact to their kids. You need to know the details and where the information is held. It would be shame to pay for a funeral that has already been paid in full.
- Their end of life wishes – This one has less to finances but it’s still something you need to talk about. Do they have a living will? Under what circumstances to they want to be kept alive? Would they like to be buried or cremated? Difficult to talk about yes, but wouldn’t you rather know now then wonder when it’s too late?
Advice for Parents with Grown Kids
Please make sure you have an up to date will. If you have had any major life changes, are now a surviving spouse or if you’ve remarried since the last will, re-read it and make sure it’s up to date.
Don’t be afraid to bring up the subject of your finances and end of life wishes with your grown children. If you’re really uncomfortable with the topic, write your kids an e-mail or a letter. If you don’t want to share any of your private financial information, that’s ok, too. Get a safety deposit box and keep your will in there. Just tell your kids where the box is and how to access it should anything happen to you. You can also keep a list of your accounts and any prepaid funeral arrangements there. A will won’t do you any good if no one knows where it is.
Losing a parent is one of the most difficult things people go through. The magnitude of grief is often overwhelming even when they’ve lived a good long life. Having a financial talk with your aging parents or grown children is not about saving money. It’s about making sure you’ve communicated so that when the times comes, your well earned money goes exactly where you’d like it to go.
Kathryn has been a staff writer for MDJ since January 2009. During the day she works in an office. In her off hours, she volunteers as a financial coach helping ordinary Canadians with the basics of money management. Kathryn, along with her husband and two children live in Ontario.