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Talking About Finances With Your Aging Parents … or Grown Kids

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

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About the author: 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.

{ 11 comments… add one }
  • PD January 28, 2010, 8:50 am

    Excellent article giving practical advice for a sometimes difficult topic. I recommend attaching this site and sending it to love ones.

    The father of a dear friend of mine died suddenly, about a year ago now. I was recently visiting with her and asked her how her family was coping. She admitted that one of the most frustrating things was accessing her father’s computer which was password protected. He was an extremely organized man who kept all important documents on his computer. Her advice to all family members is to make sure loved ones know where to find your passwords.

  • Dana January 28, 2010, 11:49 am

    When I was a financial planner, a colleaugue told me about the “40/70 rule” he recommends to his clients: you need to have the money talk with your parents by the time they are 70 or you are 40 whichever comes first. You need to have the money talk with your kids by the time they are 40 or you are 70 – whichever comes first.

  • Krista January 28, 2010, 12:25 pm

    Great article. It’s always been like pulling teeth to get the information out of my Dad. Then when I called him to tell him the details of ours (since he’s the executor), he suddenly opened up about theirs. Weirdest thing.

    I just wanted to point out though, if you’ve remarried since your last will, you need to do more than just reread it. You need a new one because marriage nullifies preexisting wills.

  • Robert January 28, 2010, 3:36 pm

    I have covered all these items (except pre-paid funeral) with my parents and it is strangely comforting after a short while to know that this is looked after. Yes, it is a bit awkward to discuss but get through it.

    In turn, it inspired me to do the same thing, in case I die unexpectedly. My Mom knows where all this is, and I give her an annual update.

    Good article.

  • Ms Save Money January 28, 2010, 6:42 pm

    I definitely agree with this article. It’s good to be well prepared “just in case.” And this isn’t just for older people either. Young people should do the same as well because you never know what might happen to you.

  • Kathryn January 28, 2010, 7:09 pm

    It’s true. We really should have this discussion at any age. Good point about the computer passwords too. What a nightmare. If you died tomorrow, at least one person needs to know where everything is and how to access it.

  • Julie S January 29, 2010, 12:31 am

    I understood that you should not put your will in a safety deposit box because upon your death, the box would be sealed by the bank and no one would be able to access it.

  • Tax Guy January 29, 2010, 12:47 am

    I worked for a number of years as an estate administrator and I can tell you that often parents are secretive about their will and estate plans. We had a case where the deceased did not disclose the estate plan (nor where his assets were) to his family. When we acted as executor we thought we knew where his investment were .. after some digging we found three times more investments he didn’t even tell us about. We were never sure if we ever found it all.

    It is important to speak to your parents about their plans!

  • Plan Your Way To Wealth January 31, 2010, 6:05 pm

    Not only should a Will be obtained, but also a Continuing Power of Attorney for Property. This document allows the person(s) you designate to make financial decisions on your behalf when you are no longer able to do so. If you do not have this in place, then family members must make an application in court to have this Power of Attorney put in place. A lot of time and heartache can be achieved with some advance planning.

  • used tires February 1, 2010, 6:04 am

    Wow, you’ve hit upon some hard but true issues. It’s something everyone should openly discuss more often to avoid troubles and complications later on.

    Till then,

    Jean

  • finance February 4, 2010, 5:19 am

    it’s a good thing that some one posted this article those things are not being discussed in almost all household. We only have some discussion about it when someone have passed away. It’s quite good and practical idea. thanks

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