Vital money questions you should ask your parents
If you’re a baby boomer there’s a good chance that you’re not only dealing with your own needs and those of your children, but the needs of your parents as well.
Talking about money with your parents can be one of the most fraught conversations you’ll have. For your parents, there’s the fear of losing control. For you, there’s the balancing act between respecting parents’ boundaries and ensuring they’ve planned out their financial future.
You don’t need to analyse your parents’ financial status down to the last penny, but you do need to cover the basics and make sure there are no surprises for them, or yourself.
As your parents enter their seventh decades and beyond, here are five questions you should be asking:
1. Do you have a record of assets and important documents and where they are held?
One of the biggest estate planning mistakes is just simply that you don’t know where everything is that your parents own.
If they haven’t already, ask them to put it all in one folder in a safe place that’s easy for you to find. The folder should contain a list of their bank, pension and investment accounts and the account numbers.
Web-based storage services are increasingly popular. Storing them digitally can also keep your parents record from getting lost, or falling into the hands of identify thieves.
2. Do you have a financial plan in place to preserve your wealth? And, most importantly, when was the last time that your reviewed it?
Our parents are living for longer, increased life expectancy means a 65 year old woman can expect to reach 90 on average. It’s important to understand which sources your parents rely on to supply income? Do they have a generous final salary pension they rely on for example?
In case of an emergency, it’s important that you know how to contact your parent’s financial adviser, solicitor or accountant – if they have one.
3. Have you made a will and is there anything out of the ordinary we should be aware of?
Make sure your parents have an up-to-date will. If the will is more than five years old, it might be worth you suggesting they review it to make sure their current wishes are reflected.
Ask if there are any specific requests that they want to discuss now – we’ve all read about the woman that left £1m to her pet dog.
In addition, it’s worth checking the beneficiaries of their life insurance policies or pensions are as they want them to be? These are legally binding documents that may override bequests made in their will.
4. Have you considered putting a Lasting Power of Attorney in place
Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a legal document where someone nominates a trusted friend or relative to look after their affairs if they lost capacity. The most important thing about creating a lasting power of attorney is that it is addressed sooner rather than later – many aren’t sure when the time is right.
You can explore the option for LPA at any time, as long as your parents are mentally stable and fully consent to the signing of LPA agreement. Without the appropriate LPA in place you may find you are not able to make a choice on their behalf, and you won’t have access to their finances in order to make any payments required.
5. If you can no longer take care of yourself, when and where would you consider moving?
Exploring whether your parents have thought about what they’ll do when they can no longer maintain a big garden or climb stairs is a difficult question at the best of times. Who wants to be reminded of their own mortality?
In the event of an illness or worse, you’ll need to address whether they want to stay in their own home or move near you or a sibling. Would they want in-home care? Would they prefer moving to an assisted living facility, and if so, to any one in particular?
If your parent loses the ability to remain independent over time, you can gradually take over responsibilities. However, be sure to balance the risks of no oversight with the mistake of overstepping boundaries.
Jeannie Boyle, Director & Chartered Financial Planner