Can You Talk to Your Aging Parents About Finances?

Family of threeTalking with aging parents about their finances, their wishes, and the future, is never an easy conversation. When it became clear that her mother was starting to suffer from memory loss, Gwen started to speak with her mother about finances, accounts and final wishes. While she felt uncomfortable pressing her own mother for information, in the long run obtaining this information made things easier when Gwen, the daughter, ultimately had to take over her mother’s finances. While not all parents are willing to have these discussions, they are important to prevent the difficulties that eventually arise. Gwen Morgan, the author of “What If…Workbook,” a guide that helps gather and convey this type of information, notes that “People hold tight to their bootstraps.” Communicating early and often can help.

Even if your parents are reluctant to discuss their finances, the sooner the conversation begins, the better for all concerned. In an article posted on Go Banking Rates, “How to Talk About Money With Your Aging Parents,” the author shares a deeply personal experience with her own mother. Some parents are simply not willing to have these conversations, and several different approaches may need to be tried before you find the one that they are comfortable with. Not knowing key information could lead to family members needing to go to court to obtain the ability to gain control of their parents' finances and make medical decisions on their behalf. These scenarios can cause serious emotional and financial hardship for families.

Here are several strategies from the article to get aging parents to discuss their finances. Make sure that the conversation is respectful. Also make certain that it’s understood that you’re not trying to take over your parents’ finances. Starting with an area that doesn’t feel like a loss of power, may be more successful, the article advises.

1. Use a story. Whether true or not, this can get the ball rolling. It can be about someone who did or didn’t have information about his elderly parents’ finances and what happened:  major headaches for the children because they didn’t have any information about the father’s accounts or legal documents. Assure your parents that you want to make sure this doesn’t happen to your family and suggest that they divulge some of their financial information.

2. Get help from your siblings. The child with the closest relationship with the parent should start the conversation, with the other kids joining in later conversations to discuss specific details about your parents’ money.

3. Talk about your own situation. The article notes that you might be able to get your parents to speak more freely if you share what you’ve done to get your own financial affairs in order. This can include that you’ve met with an estate planning attorney to create documents such as a will and trust. Also, let your parents know that you have a list of your accounts and passwords to give to your spouse if the unforeseeable occurs. Then ask your parents what steps they’ve taken.

4. Discuss your parents’ future. Inquire of your parents about their plans for retirement. This is a more general discussion that can get things going, the article said. You can ask if they plan to downsize or what sort of care they’d like to receive if something happened. This could start a detailed discussion about their finances.

There are several other great tips in the article, one of which is to get some help from an expert. If your parents aren’t willing to talk to you, suggest that they meet with an estate law attorney. He or she can help urge your parents to share important financial information with you.

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Reference: Go Banking Rates (July 18, 2015) “How to Talk About Money With Your Aging Parents”


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