As your parents begin to age, the role reversal that often takes place can feel peculiar. After all, it wasn't that long ago that it was your parents driving you around and caring for you during an illness. Now that they're growing older, you might be the one driving them to their doctor appointments and providing care for their disability or illnesses.

If you feel that this role reversal is starting to take place, it's critical that you discuss your parent's finances and financial planning. It might be a difficult subject to broach, but it's important that you aren't blindsided by any financial woes in your parent's future. Here are nine financial questions to ask your parents:

  1. What are your assets? You can help your parents tally all of their savings, cash, financial investments, and so forth if they haven't already done it. Be sure to subtract any significant liabilities, such as an unpaid mortgage. Ask your parents how much money they're likely to receive post-retirement, such as from Social Security benefits, dividend payments, or pensions.

  2. Will you provide me with your financial account information? Explain that you'll need the contact information for their financial institutions, attorneys, advisers, and accountants; account numbers; and passwords after they pass away. It's much easier to have a comprehensive list now, versus trying to find it all during the grieving process. You'll also want to know what institution they have any safe deposit boxes with and where the keys are kept.

  3. Are you concerned about outliving your retirement funds? Ask your parents to look at their current or projected retirement income and determine if they realistically feel secure that it will fund their retirement years. If they don't feel like what they have will suffice, then you need to ask how much, if any, financial support they would need from you. You might feel that you aren't in a financial position to help them and need to suggest they make an appointment with a financial adviser.

  4. Will you have adequate Medical insurance? If they feel that they won't have enough Medical insurance to cover their health care expenses, then you'll want to find out how they plan to pay for these costly expenses.

  5. Is there a Long-Term Care (LTC) plan in place? Statically, one in five individuals over 65-years-old will need some form of LTC at some point in their life. With the average cost being between $25,000 and $95,000 per year of service, it's a prudent move to have LTC insurance to help. Those that develop a long-term illness without LTC insurance or savings to cover the services might have no choice but to rely on their children for care. This arrangement might be fine by both parties, but it's still important to have some emotional and financial foresight.

  6. Do you have an up-to-date will? Even for estates of little value, your parents should have a will. The amount of ruckus from survivors arguing over monetarily worthless trinkets and family heirlooms can be amazing. This can be avoided with a will. However, the will should be updated regularly since elapsed time can mean births, deaths, marriages, divorces, and other changes to family dynamics. Once you've established that your parents have a will, you'll also want to know where they store the original signed copy and any other estate planning documents.

  7. Do you have a health care directive and a power of attorney? The durable power of attorney is a legal document that allows your parents to choose the person they feel most reliable in managing their assets should they become incapacitated. The health care directive is a legal document that will allow your parents to put their health care preferences in writing.

  8. Do all your financial accounts have a designated beneficiary? All financial accounts, such as IRAs, annuities, insurance policies, and 401(k)s, should have a designated beneficiary. Since life often brings changes to family dynamics, remind your parents to review their beneficiary selections periodically.

  9. Is your estate protected from taxes? If your parent's finances aren't arranged correctly when they pass away, the heirs to the estate could be faced with hundreds to thousands of dollars in federal estates taxes. Encourage your parents to meet with a professional estate planner, especially if their estate is of significant monetary value.
Asking such questions might not be comfortable. Some parents might even be offended or embarrassed that you're offering them financial advice. It might help if you preface by explaining your goal isn't to be intrusive or overbearing, but rather to ensure that they, nor you by default, come to any financial harm.
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