At a Glance
Money taboos are hard to break. You may even feel that money is a taboo topic because of the way you were raised. So needless to say, it can be quite awkward to talk about finances with the very people who raised you. However, as your parents age, there are four critical financial discussions you need to have with them if you want to avoid issues later on.
Elder financial abuse
“I had a grandparent recently lose multiple hundreds of dollars due to a scammer convincing them that they needed to buy gift cards and send them the codes to ‘fix their computer.’”
Unfortunately, scammers prey on the elderly all the time. Your parents may not be as technologically savvy as you are. And scams are becoming more and more sophisticated, so it’s better to broach the topic just in case. If you’re unsure how to start, just say you read an article about scams.
“Although having a conversation with your elderly parents is difficult, it beats finding out that they have been scammed out of hundreds or thousands of dollars that they desperately need,” adds Robbs.
Take the time to explain that anyone who contacts them over the phone or online to ask for money, credit card information or any other personal information is likely to be a scammer.
Nobody wants to think about losing their loved ones. And the very idea of approaching your parents about estate planning may feel unpleasant – or like you’re being cold. It’s one of the most crucial conversations that you can have with your elderly parents though.
“These conversations do not have to be awkward, especially if you approach it with an attitude of love and concern,” says Mary Kate D’Souza, co-founder and Chief Legal Officer of Gentreo, a next-generation online estate planning solution. According to her, you could protect significant amounts of money and preserve relationships by assisting your parents in preparing or updating their estate plan. Who will have the power of attorney to make decisions on their behalf if they are unable to exercise control over their finances? Do they have a will? What are their wishes?
“Inquire of your parents if they have an updated estate plan that reflects their current wishes. It is especially important, if they have named each other as their first choice financial and healthcare agent, that they name some other trusted loved one as an alternate choice,” she adds. Also, find out where their estate planning documents are stored and whether they are in a secure and accessible location.
If your parents have debt, you may be wondering: Will you be on the hook for it if your parents pass away? Unless you co-signed anything, no. However, you will still have to deal with a deceased parent’s financial affairs, including calling creditors and requesting that individual accounts are closed.
“This will close the account and inform the creditor that paying this debt will be handled in probate. Probate is what is done by the state or through attorneys either by verifying a will or assessing the estate,” according to Debt.com. “If there is no will, the state will look at the assets of the deceased’s estate and pay off any debts. This can take months for a court to figure out.”
What this also means is that if there is an inheritance, it might be reduced to cover debt payments. It’s worth having a conversation with your parents about options like debt consolidation loans to pay down their outstanding debt and ease the burden later on. You can even suggest this debt consolidation loan calculator to help them come up with a plan.
If your parents are retiring in the next few years, having a conversation about money is a good idea because your parents will be transitioning from one stage of life into the next and you may have very different ideas of what that situation will look like.
“Are your family dynamics such that there is an unsaid expectation or obligation from you towards your elderly parents in terms of financial help? If you are unsure, these are the things better cleared out early rather than late,” says Kyle Kroeger, former finance and private equity professional who is now the founder of ViaTravelers.com.
According to him, you need to ask questions about where your parents want to live after retiring and earning their pensions – and how much support they expect from you. “Do they want to relocate to a more reasonable suburban kind of geographical location? Or do they seek to continue living in a modern city center? Moreover, what are their expectations from you hereafter?” Getting on the same page will help both your parents and you prepare a plan and avoid bad surprises.