How Much Do I Need to Know About My Parent’s Finances?

Few people want to stick their noses into their parents’ business. For many, it’s the last taboo to inquire into your parents’ financial lives. This is one of those “it depends” questions. It isn’t always necessary for you to know every detail about your parents’ financial affairs. In fact, the less you need to know, the more likely they may be to tell you what you should know. If your parents are still in good health mentally and physically, and are managing their affairs with no need for assistance, then the amount of detail you need to know is limited. They may be reluctant to tell you how much they are worth, or to reveal the contents of their wills. That’s okay. In that case, let them know that your concern is to know where to find important records in the event something happens. If one or both of your parents are beyond their 80’s or if they are showing some signs of needing assistance with financial matters, then you are going to need to know more than simply where things are. And if you are serving as a conservator, trustee, or exercising authority under a power of attorney, then you have truly become a financial caregiver and will need to know as much as possible about their arrangements.

I use the “Continuum of Dependence” graphic below to visually show how much information an adult child or other family member needs to be aware of depending on the level of dependency someone is experiencing.

How Much Do You Need to Know?

Continuum of care

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