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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 private.

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.

Talking Points

[    ]  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 find it?


[    ]  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 Representative?


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.)



Other Notes