Important Financial Questions to Ask a Senior Parent

Sunrise Senior Living  |  December 17, 2018
Important Financial Questions to Ask a Senior Parent
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Initiating a conversation with an older loved one about finances isn’t easy. Even if it is a discussion between adult children and a parent, asking questions about money can feel like you are invading the senior’s privacy. It may also be difficult on another level: admitting that a loved one is growing old and might need your assistance before long.

While these are difficult conversations to have, they are necessary. Medical emergencies can happen at any age, but they are especially common as loved ones grow older. Sometimes an older family member’s health declines slowly and loved ones can more gradually assume financial tasks. Other times, however, a serious health crisis happens suddenly.

If your senior loved one experiences a health crisis, would you be able to manage their finances for them? Even on a short-term basis?

13 Financial Topics to Discuss with Your Senior Parent

To make it a little easier to tackle this conversation, we created a list of basic financial issues to discuss. You might want to break these questions up over several discussions to make it a little easier on your family member.

  1. Have they created a will? Did they use an attorney? Who is named as executor? Where can you find a copy of the will?
  2. Do they have other important documents in place, including a living will and power of attorney? If so, where are copies of the documents stored?
  3. Do they have a safe deposit box? Which bank is it at and where do they keep the key? Do they have a list of what they store in it?
  4. Where do they store their Medicare or Medicare replacement insurance card? Do they have gap insurance or a secondary insurance policy?
  5. Where do they keep their social security card?
  6. Do they have a life insurance or long-term care insurance policy? Where are those documents?
  7. If the senior is a veteran, where are their important military documents (e.g., discharge papers)?
  8. Does your loved one have a copy of their original birth certificate? Where is it?
  9. Where does the senior do their banking? Do they use any brokerage firms or other financial institutions?
  10. Does the senior have a mortgage on their home or do they own it outright? If it is paid off, where is the deed stored? What agency do they use for homeowner’s insurance?
  11. If the senior still drives, ask about their car. Do they have a car payment? If not, where is the title stored? Who is their insurance provider?
  12. What bills does the senior have each month? Are they set up on autopay, or will you need access to their checkbook to write checks?
  13. Does the senior have a list of all their financial holdings including stocks, bonds, and other assets? Where is it kept?

While it can be awkward when you first start this conversation, it will become easier as you go. You and your senior loved one will also find that it gives you both peace of mind to know you are prepared in the event of an emergency.

One final suggestion is to take this opportunity to have a conversation with your loved one about identity theft. Our article, “Financial Self-Defense for Seniors,” has tips to help.