The idea of discussing your parent’s finances and estate planning can seem overwhelming and incredibly intimidating. After all, this is oftentimes the type of questions parents ask their children – not the other way around. However, as challenging as it can be to initiate this conversation, it is important to do so in order to ensure their estate planning wishes are followed, and so that you are able to help them with financial and other matters if needed.
- Who do you work with?
It is important to know what professionals your parents work with – their financial planner, estate planning and/or business attorney, CPA etc. Having these individuals names and contact information can be instrumental in the event you need to help to manage your parents matters, or are acting to settle their estate.
- Do you have a will?
Knowing if your parents have a will, and where they keep it, is not always an easy question to ask. However, knowing this information is imperative in helping to ensure their wishes regarding the distribution of their assets are known and followed. I frequently receive phone calls from individuals after a parent died, stating they do not know if their parent had a will and/or do not know where it was kept. Without this information, families are left searching for a will and, if they cannot locate it, oftentimes have to go through formal probate proceedings.
3. Do you have a health care directive and power of attorney?
Similar to a will, these documents communicate your parents wishes regarding their health care and financial matters. It also transfers the authority to the agents they have named to manage such matters while they are still living, but unable to make such decisions for themselves.
- Are your beneficiaries up to date?
Beneficiary listings (such as on life insurance policies, retirement accounts and transfer on death accounts) will outweigh what is contained in a will. It is important that beneficiary designations are up to date. If they have not been checked for years, it is worth a quick phone call to confirm who is listed and ensure the beneficiary designation accurately reflects their most current goals and wishes.
- What financial accounts do you have, and where are they?
In managing your parent’s financial matters or distributing their estate, it will be extremely helpful to know what accounts exist, and where they are held. A client of mine spent months piecing together this information through collecting mail and making phone calls – a tedious and time consuming approach – to identifying assets which could have been assessed in a conversation while her mother was alive.
- What insurance do you have and where are the policies?
According to a study by Consumer Reports, 1 in every 600 people is a beneficiary of an unclaimed life insurance policy, with an average benefit of $2,000. If families are not aware that certain life insurance policies exist, the money may go unclaimed. Knowing what policies there are and with what companies they are held is important.
- Where is your financial paperwork kept?
It is important to know where important paperwork is kept – tax returns, insurance policies, copies of important documents, etc. If such items are kept in a safe-deposit box or safe, you should also know where those are located, and how to access them if necessary.
Schromen Law, LLC works with families to help make certain appropriate planning is in place, and important information is communicated and/or accessible to those who need it. With this planning in place, you and your parents can enjoy the peace of mind that comes with knowing you have planned for the worst, so you can continue living for the best.
The material contained herein is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to create or constitute an attorney-client relationship between Schromen Law, LLC and the reader. The information contained herein is not offered as legal advice and should not be construed as legal advice.