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Savvy senior: What you should know about your parents' financial affairs

Gathering important information from your aging parents is an important step in preparing for end-of-life plans.
BY JIM MILLER Published: January 13, 2014

DEAR SAVVY SENIOR: My pastor recently suggested that I get informed on my elderly parents' financial situation and end-of-life plans so I can be better prepared when something happens to them. What's the best way to handle this, and what all do I need to find out?

— Apprehensive Daughter

DEAR APPREHENSIVE: Most adult children don't know much about their parents' financial situation or end-of-life plans, but they need to. Getting up to speed on your elderly parents' finances, insurance policies, long-term care plans and other information is important because someday you might have to help them handle their financial affairs or care, or execute their estate plan after they die.

Have the talk

If you're uncomfortable starting up a conversation like this with your parents, go to for guidance. It's also a good idea to get your siblings or other family members involved. This can help you head off possible hard feelings, plus, with others involved, your parents will know everyone is concerned.

When you meet with your parents, you'll need to create several lists of important information and find out where they keep key documents and how they want certain things handled when they die or if they become incapacitated.

Personal information

Contacts: Make a list of names and phone numbers of close friends, clergy, their doctors, lawyer, accountant, broker, tax preparer, insurance agent, etc.

Personal documents: Find out where they keep their Social Security card, marriage license, military discharge papers, etc.

Secured places: Make a list of places they keep under lock and key or protected by password.

Service providers: Make a list of the companies or people who provide them regular services, such as utility companies, lawn service, etc.

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