What would happen if you had to suddenly take over management of your parent’s finances? If your mom or dad were to fall ill or become incapacitated, someone has to continue paying their bills and managing their money. This scenario happens in many families. Are you prepared?

Ideally, an adult child should have all the information they need to handle this task before Mom or Dad can no longer take care of their finances. Ensure you’re ready for this responsibility by having a frank discussion with your parent(s) about their legal preparations and financial commitments.

10 Financial Questions to Ask Your Parent

  1. Have you named a durable power of attorney for finances?

    The first step is to find out if they have named a durable power of attorney (POA) for finances. (Asking if they've completed a durable POA for health care is important, too, but that might be better addressed in a separate conversation.) If your parent loses competency without a financial POA in place, you’ll probably have to file a petition for guardianship with the court to access accounts on their behalf.
  2. Where do you keep your financial records?

    Whether they keep their money and documents in a bank, a safe, or under the mattress, you need to know where to find important records when you need them. Where are the keys or codes to lock boxes or safes located?
  3. What are your bank account numbers and the names of your financial institutions?

    In addition to knowing where they keep their money, you need specifics on all their accounts. What bank(s) do they use? Who is their mortgage company? Do they use an investment company or work with a broker?
  4. What are your monthly expenses?

    Gather information about their mortgage, car payment, credit card debt, utility bills and other recurring expenses.
  5. How do you pay bills currently?

    If there are automatic deductions being taken out of a checking account you may end up managing, you need to know about it. Furthermore, do they use online banking services or only paper checks?
  6. How much is your annual income and where does it come from?

    Does your parent receive a monthly pension check? Do they have dividends coming in from investments? Do they get money for a disability or alimony?
  7. Do you receive Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security benefits?

    If your parent becomes incapacitated, you may have to investigate the status of their benefits and ensure their ongoing eligibility for any government assistance programs. Some entities also require you to obtain additional authorizations to manage their account(s).
  8. What kind of health insurance do you have in addition to Medicare?

    Do they have health insurance provided by an employer? If they are retired, are health benefits included as part of a pension? Do they get health care coverage through the VA? If they have Medicare, how do they get their coverage? Do they have “Original Medicare” or a Medicare Advantage Plan? Do they pay for a Medigap Plan and/or Part D Plan?
  9. Do you have long-term care insurance?

    A “regular” health insurance plan does not cover the cost of senior living facilities. Have they purchased a long-term care insurance policy to cover these expenses? If they do not have a LTCI policy and can no longer live on their own safely, what can they afford in terms of care and housing? Do they own a life insurance policy that could be used to help cover these costs?
  10. Do you have an accountant, financial planner, or attorney?

    Who is it and how do they contact them? Have they engaged in any estate planning (e.g., drafting a will, creating a trust)? Where is this information kept?

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