Having "the talk" with your parents: A How-To Guide

Thought the days of uncomfortable conversations with your parents ended in high school? Think again. Although it may seem difficult to bring up subjects of money, retirement, sickness or death with your parents, it is the time to discuss the facts of life with them again -- the financial and practical facts of what they have planned for their future, as well as what they want and expect.

It's best to speak with your parents before any problems ariseWhile you may think, “I don’t need to do this now; my parents are healthy and active,” it is far easier to talk about finances, health issues and final arrangements now than to deal with a crisis unprepared.

Not sure where to begin? Here are some conversation starters:

Wills – Is there a will? If there is, when was the last time it was updated? Who is the executor? Divorces, deaths, and grandchildren are all changes that when not up to date in a will can cause issues from hurt feelings to legal difficulties.

Life insurance – Do they have life insurance policies? How much are the policies for? What company are the policies from? Life insurance is meant to make the difficult time following a death easier; however, misplaced policies or outdated beneficiaries can lead to delays and disputes.

Final arrangements - While you do not need to choose who will be saying the eulogy yet, find out if any final arrangements are made. Have any services been prepaid? Is there a cemetery plot? Would they prefer cremation?

Health and Lifestyle - Even healthy seniors may be looking to change their lifestyles by downsizing or moving to an apartment, condominium or seniors’ community. If one parent or both parents become ill, would they ideally stay in their home or look to assisted living elsewhere? Who has power of attorney if it becomes necessary? Is there a living will in place to help guide loved ones in making difficult decisions?

Are there enough retirement savings, pension benefits in place to take care of costs, or do they plan to sell assets such as their home? Is there any long-term care insurance in place?

While talking may bring up as many questions as answers, one day your kids may be sitting you down for the talk, so stay open and honest and try not to roll your eyes as much as you did in high school.