Important questions to ask your parents about their retirement or will

July 06, 2023 | Anne Purcell

Sooner or later, it will be time for adult children to have a conversation with their parents about their retirement, will and other financial concerns. If you are at the point where your parents are getting older, it may be time to bring up their finances and how you can be more involved. While talking about money is tough, especially when you must bring it up to your parents and their future, it is important.

Here are some tips on how to get the conversation started and key questions to ask:

Ease into the conversation

Many families hold off on having such a conversation until something happens, such as a parent’s declining health or a death. At that point, it might be too late or the conversation too difficult. By having this conversation early, everyone has a better chance of being on the same page with a clear understanding of the parent's wishes, which can mitigate stress later on.

Start the conversation by approaching what you want to talk about directly, but with kindness and respect. Let your parents know that you simply want to understand their wishes when it comes to their finances and would like to be more involved if something happens. Do not approach the conversation in a way that may come off condescending or that you know better, as this may cause your parents to be defensive.

Ask about retirement and their financial plan

If your parents have yet to retire, learning more about their retirement goals can help gain insight into their finances and wishes for their future. Asking questions about their plans after retirement, such as if they have a financial plan in place, how they want to spend their retirement or where to live is a great place to start. If they have yet to think about it, mention how speaking to a financial advisor might be helpful.

Learning about your parents’ retirement goals early also may affect your current financial plan for you and your family, especially if your parents might lean on you for financial help in the future.

Inquire whether they have a list of their accounts

If your parents have multiple accounts—like a savings account, IRA, investments, etc.—having information about them all in a safe location can simplify the process if an emergency occurs. With this in mind, it is a good idea to ask your parents if they would be okay with providing you with a list of their financial assets and the beneficiaries attached to the accounts. However, if they don’t want to share this with you now, ask if they could provide you with where they keep this type of information, the contact information of their financial advisor (if they have one) or if they could put their account information in a sealed envelope only to be opened in an emergency as a compromise.

Do they have a will and is it up to date?

Asking your parents about whether they have a will in place and who is the executor is another important piece of information to learn about when speaking to your parents about their finances. Knowing this information can better prepare you and the rest of the family if something happens. Wills also outline specific requests for the executor, such as celebrations or burial preferences, so knowing about these early can help you prepare for the specific requests if need be.

While not everyone has a will, they are a valuable document that will help ease the process once a family member passes. If your parents don’t have one now, ask them if they would be willing to meet with an estate attorney to begin the process.

Start planning early by having the hard conversations

Speaking about finances with anyone, no matter the relationship is difficult. But by starting the conversation early you may avoid confusion and headaches later. Bringing up finances, retirement goals and planning and wills earlier, can help keep you aware of your parents’ situation now and in the future.

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