My mom died at age 61 when I was 31 years old. Seeing her tombstone in the field of others, I was struck by the harsh, albeit obvious, fact: everyone, including everyone’s parents, will die.

I promise I’m not trying to oppress you. I want to prepare you, because this loss may happen sooner than you expected. And when parents die, their children often have to deal with not only grief but also financial problems.

Planning those things now can help later if you are going through what may be one of your hardest days.

“Of course, we need to have some idea of ​​what we’re facing,” said Melanie Cullen, author of Gather Together: Organize Recordings so Your Family Doesn’t Have to. She adds: “On the other hand, our parents need to know that we are interested, we care, we are here to help.”

That’s why, how and what to talk to parents.


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Without documented plans regarding your parents ’finances at the end of life, you may end up looking for money.

Say you were not given access to your parents ’financial accounts in the event of disability or death. What if your parents were too sick to manage their finances? You will need to pay their bills, but you cannot use their money for this. Then you couldn’t use their money for a funeral that could cost thousands of dollars.

Many caregivers end up “digging into their money,” says AARP family care expert Amanda Singleton. You can’t save or invest money that covers your parents ’expenses, she adds. And if you don’t have enough money, you can borrow.

Aside from this potential financial blow, your parents ’plans and desires are less likely to be fulfilled if you don’t know what it is.

For example, in the months when my mother died, we never discussed her funeral. So when I planned this, I was overwhelmed with both grief and speculation.

My family spent a huge amount of money on an open box service, in part because we didn’t know what to do and struggled to focus on the solution. I suspect that my frugal, shy to camera mom would have preferred a simple (and less expensive) cremation.


Continue this theme with respect and esteem. Personal finance is an awkward topic for many. Now your parents have to talk to their child about both money and death.

Your parents probably attended the funeral more than you did, and may have themselves suffered from the death of their parents. Use this experience to start a conversation, suggests Singleton, who is also a real estate planning attorney in St. Petersburg, Florida. Ask how they handled caring for their loved ones at the end of life.

Did your grandmother have the last will, and was it easy for your parents to find her financial information? Perhaps they can follow her example. Or if your parents had to sort out messy finances by remembering that experience, they could get organized.

Another option: to lead with a relevant or personal hint. This is what Mark Schroeder, a certified financial planner from Charlotte, North Carolina, did with his mother. When his CFP courses covered specific topics related to planning, he shared what he learned and asked about her intentions.

If you’ve learned about end-of-life planning on your own – say in an article – or are making your own arrangements, let your parents know and ask for their point of view.

“Make it a planning and preparation conversation,” says Schroeder, who is also a financial planning strategist at TIAA, a retirement planning organization. “It’s not so much in numbers or” how much do you have on these accounts? ” but “what accounts do you have, and how can I help if you for some reason could not be there?”

Ask if the parents have a power of attorney for finances. This legal document refers to a person who can make monetary decisions on their behalf. Also find out if they have similar health care documents, such as a directive on advanced health care, a power of attorney for health care or a power of attorney for health care. A will can be helpful, as this document outlines what they may want for care at the end of life.

Find out if your parents have a modern real estate plan. This may include a will or a living trust that determines how they want to distribute their assets. Assets will include their home, vehicle, stocks and money in various accounts.

If your parents die without a property plan, state law determines who gets their belongings – and the distribution may not be what they wanted.

If your parents (or you, for that matter) don’t have a real estate plan, consider finding a real estate planning attorney or inexpensive wills.

Consult a specialist for personal advice. But if you want to get organized and focused first, take a look at the AARP Care Guide, which includes resources and checklists. Or try a death planning app like Lantern, Cake, Empathy or Everplans.

Discuss this topic now, as loved ones may die sooner than you think.

Both your parents ’lives and plans will change, so Cullen suggests you“ go for it like a lifelong conversation ”.

This column was provided by The Associated Press on the NerdWallet personal finance website. Laura McMalen is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: Twitter: @lauraemcmullen.

NerdWallet: Property Planning: A 7-Step Checklist of Fundamentals

AARP: How to stop procrastinating with getting a will and real estate plan

Associated Press: Liz Weston: How to Fight Death? To do this, there is an application

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