Questions to ask your parents before they pass

During your lifetime you’re going to have some difficult discussions with your parents, but one of the hardest discussions revolves around estate planning and the topic of death. No one wants to talk to their parents about dying and about what will happen after they’re gone, but it’s a hard discussion that you need to have with them — and sooner than later.

How to have the conversation is often the biggest hurdle that you’ll face. A good plan may be to have a series of smaller conversations; look for openings that make it easier for you to segue into a discussion about estate planning. Let a member of your family whom your parents relate to best, if that’s not you, lead the discussion. It may make talking about their mortality and the need for estate planning more palatable.

The problem is that many people get defensive when the talk turns to their assets. So, you want to make sure that they understand that you want them to remain in control, but at the very least, they need to let you know where all of their important documents are kept.

If you find this discussion to be too difficult, you may want to put your concerns into words. Make a list of questions to ask your parents before they die to ensure that their estate is in order and that all of their plans will be carried out after they’re gone.

Getting the conversation started

The question at the top of your list should be “Do you have an estate plan?” A full estate plan will cover everything from who makes healthcare decisions for your parents if they become incapacitated to financial plans, trusts, and wills.

Estate planning is divided into two parts: incapacity planning and death planning. Incapacity planning includes such things as:

  • Who makes healthcare decisions on the behalf of your parents such as life support and organ donation?
  • Who is in charge of their finances when they no longer can be?
  • What financial accounts do your parents have and where?
  • Who will have Power of Attorney for banking and healthcare planning?
  • What insurance do your parents have and where are the policies located?
  • Where is the information concerning their taxes located?

If your parents have a financial advisor and/or personal attorney, you need to have a list of their names, addresses, and phone numbers as well as the names and numbers of your parents’ doctors in case critical medical decisions need to be made.

As far as planning for the eventuality of death, do your parents have a will? A living trust? Are their designated beneficiaries up to date? What kind of funeral do they want? Cremation or burial?

Helping them through the process

After all is said and done, you could still have unanswered questions, but you may discover that your parents need a living trust which can help protect assets meant for family or charitable causes from taxes and probate. And, they will remain in charge until their death unless they become incapacitated.

With the addition of a pour-over will, they won’t have to worry about what happens to assets not in the trust.

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