Questions You Should Ask Your Parents
Knowing your parents' plans for their legal
and financial affairs can be invaluable when they're no longer able to
express their intentions.
Many adult children
wonder whether their parents have prepared documents that, after the
parents have passed away or if they become unable to communicate
directly, will express their intentions regarding a wide range of legal,
financial and personal care issues.
Raising such topics
with one’s parents can be difficult, just as our parents might find it
difficult to address those issues with us over concerns that they would
be giving up control, or because they want to keep private matters
If either you or your
parents initiate a discussion of their affairs and wishes, you might
find value in the following talking points. You can use this checklist
to ask your parents whether they have made the necessary decisions and
documented their intentions, while at the same time assuring them that
you do not need to see the documents themselves.
] Have you named a beneficiary for your IRA,
401(k), annuities and life insurance policies? Have you selected
a successor beneficiary if the first beneficiary dies before you do?
Who knows where those documents are located?
[ ] Do you have a General Durable Power of Attorney
that allows someone to make financial decisions for you if you can’t
make them for yourself?
[ ] Do you have a Living Will and a Medical Power of
Attorney that allow someone to make medical decisions for you if you
can’t? Have you told your doctor who that person is?
[ ] Do you also have a Mental Health Power of
Attorney? (This question applies to residents of Arizona or any
state in which the law recognizes such a document.)
[ ] Does the person with the Power of Attorney have
a copy of the document, in case he or she needs to use it? Does he
or she know where to find the original?
[ ] Does someone other than you have the ability to
access your Safe Deposit Box? Does this person know where the box
and the key are located?
[ ] Do you have a list of all of your bank account
numbers and insurance policies? Where is the contact information for
your stockbroker, your lawyer and your doctors? If you have other
important information, is it written down somewhere? Does the person
with your Power of Attorney or someone else you trust know where to
[ ] Have you prepared a Will?
Does your Personal Representative (Arizona’s term for
“Executor”) know where to find your original Will?
In case your Personal Representative dies before you do or
is unable to serve, have you named a successor or alternate Personal
If your parents have children under 18 or disabled
adult children or other dependents: Does your Will name a Guardian
who will be responsible for them if you are gone?
Do you have a list of your personal and household items, either as part of your Will or on a separate sheet, and who should
receive each item after you are gone?
If you parents live in Arizona or another state that
allows for beneficiary deeds: Do you have a beneficiary deed for any
real property that you own? If you do, does the beneficiary know that he
or she is entitled to take the property upon your death?
[ ] Have you prepared a Living Trust? (This is not necessary
for many people, but it can be a good way to have property pass to your
spouse, and is very important if you own a small business.)