It can be challenging to open up a conversation with parents about their estate planning if that kind of openness is not the culture of your family. That being said, it is a good idea to start right now in creating this culture so that your children never end up googling this. Here are some recommendations for getting started and for what to ask.
A next great step is to start sharing with your parents and siblings some relevant pieces of your estate planning, thereby leading with the behavior you want to see. If you share your health care wishes, it is much more likely that your family member will respond in kind.
While there are many areas where it is important to have a conversation with your parents, your family and the immediate circumstances will dictate where you start. Since most people are reluctant to talk about finances, it may be wise to start by discussing health care
A great way to store the information from each area would be in a google doc shared among those who may need it (for example, for Health Care, all of the potential caretakers), so that it can be easily kept up to date, and accessed in an emergency.
Health Care and Health Care Information
- Who is their PCP, and what is their contact information?
- Do they see any other doctors on a regular basis and if so, why, and what is their contact information?
- What medications or supplements do they take on a regular basis? Periodically, get a printout from their pharmacy of choice and compare it against this list.
- Do they have any allergies?
- Brief medical history that you can share with new doctors as necessary.
- What is their health insurance? Scan in their insurance cards.
- Do they have a health care proxy? If so, who is named? Do all the medical professionals and all of the people named in it have a copy? Where is the original kept? It is good practice to keep a copy at home (each home if more than one), in each glove compartment, and saved with a link from the front screen of their phone.
- What are their health care wishes? Try https://theconversationproject.org/ and http://engagewithgrace.org/ to help with these conversations.
- What are their burial and memorial wishes? If they want to be cremated, how do they want the cremains disposed? Do they have a prepaid funeral contract? A deed to a burial plot? Have they met with the funeral home that they would use to discuss and document their wishes?
- Who is their attorney, and what is their contact information?
- Do they have estate planning documents and, if so, what are they, where are the originals and where are any copies? When were these documents signed, and when are they planning to check in with their attorney about any updates?
- If they have a revocable trust, have they “funded” it?
- If they served in the military, where are their discharge/service documents? Do they know to what benefits they are entitled?
- Who is their financial advisor, and what is their contact information? How frequently do they meet with them, and at what point would they be comfortable including you in that meeting?
- Who is their accountant, and what is their contact information? Are they consulting with them in the “off season” to see whether there are additional income tax savings they could realize?
- Where are copies of their tax returns kept? Reviewing a prior years’ tax return can be helpful in identifying accounts that may have been overlooked.
- What accounts do they have? How are those accounts titled? How can those accounts be accessed online, if necessary? Reviewing monthly statements of checking and savings accounts can help to identify sources of income and expenses that may have been overlooked.
- Do they have long term care insurance? Where are the documents related to this? Do you all understand the benefits and, if not, can you get someone to review the policy and walk you through it now, while there is no emergency?
- Do they have life insurance? Where are the documents related to this? Who is the beneficiary? Do you have a copy of the beneficiary designation?
- Do they have retirement assets? Do you have a recent statement? How can those accounts be accessed online, if necessary? Who is the beneficiary? Do you have a copy of the beneficiary designation? If an employer-run plan, do you have a contact at the employer?
- How is their home owned? Is it registered or recorded land? Are there any mortgages or liens against it? Do they have a Declaration of Homestead filed?
- Who has keys to their home?
- Who insures their home? Do they have any riders on their policy for valuable items? Are those up to date? If the home is an apartment, do they have renters’ insurance, and ask all the same questions.
- Do they have a security system? What is the contact information for the company? Who has the access codes for their home?
- Do they have any safes in the home? How can they be opened if necessary?
- Are there any items of tangible personal property in the home that are particularly valuable, whether financially or sentimentally? Are they listed on the insurance rider, if appropriate?
- Do they have any regular service providers at their home? (Housekeepers, landscapers, plowing, or annual maintenance providers). What is their contact information and the terms of their services?
- Do they have a safe deposit box? If so, where, what is in it and who else has access to it?
- Do they have a storage unit? If so, where, what is in it and who else has access to it? Are valuable items there covered under the homeowners’ insurance policy?
- Do they have pets? Is there a plan for caring for the pet in an emergency? Who is the veterinarian? Do they have pet insurance? Where is the information for that?
- Do they have computers or other devices?
- Where are their passwords stored – to get into the computer, iCloud passwords, for various websites? Encourage and help them utilize a password manager.