To share or not to share…
According to the 2016 Fidelity Investments Family & Finance Study, the majority of parents surveyed feel it is important to talk about money with their adult children.
In my experience, however, these discussions don’t take place because most don’t know what, how much, or when to share.
It is a fact. At some point, most children will become involved in their parents’ finances, and it is always better for them to be more prepared than less. Better preparation generally results in fewer surprises, reduced stress, and sound decision making. It may also reduce fees and expenses resulting from missed payments, otherwise unnecessary professional fees, and duplication of effort, etc. In fact, according to that same Fidelity study, 93% of adult children and 95% of the parents felt greater peace of mind after discussing the parents’ situation.
The question then becomes how much should be shared? And when? My recommendation: start sooner rather than later and share enough so that a child is prepared to immediately step in when needed. Need some help to jump start the conversation? See some ideas below on topics to cover together.
Estate planning documents, decision makers, and long-term care
Do estate planning documents exist? If so, where are they located? If not, are they needed (likely yes!)?
What is the estate planning attorney’s contact information?
Who has been named to act as a fiduciary (the person named to make decisions)?
If long-term care is needed, what are the most important factors to consider?
Have pre-need funeral arrangements been made? If so, where is the documentation located? If not, are their specific wishes that need to be followed when the time comes?
Location of assets, sources of income, and tax returns
What is the name and location of the primary bank or banks?
What are the primary sources of income?
How are bills paid?
If a safe deposit box is used, where it is located, where is the key, and who has access to the box?
Who are the primary contacts for any investment accounts?
Who prepares the income tax returns and where are prior year returns kept?
Doctors, insurance, and prescriptions
Who are the primary physicians?
What medical insurance is in force and where are the identification cards?
What pharmacy is used for prescriptions (bonus points if the actual medications are shared)?
Other important stuff
Is there a list of important websites used, including user names and passwords?
What is the contact information for the auto and homeowner’s insurance?
Where can extra keys to the house be found and/or what are the garage and alarm codes?
If there is a safe in the house, where is the code/key is located?
While these questions don’t cover everything, they are a great place to start. Thinking about my own parents (who are divorced, and therefore have completely different information), I realize that I can’t answer all of these questions for either parent. Which means that I too have some conversations and homework to tackle!