Most people are used to thinking of their parents as self-sufficient and independent. But as parent’s age, there are a number of important conversations families should have. Here are three pressing concerns to discuss with aging parents:

Savings and finances

Even parents who have saved consistently throughout their working years may have hidden concerns. Ask about their current savings and investments, assets, and pension income, if any. The goal of the conversation is to understand where assets are located and whether there are any areas of concern. It’s important to look at all possible sources of income, including things like whole life insurance policies. The cash value of whole life insurance can be a great way to supplement retirement income. Ultimately, children may eventually take over some or all of a parent’s financial management. The more the children know up front, the easier this transition can be should it ever become necessary.

Health and medical concerns

A conversation about health can start with any existing conditions and concerns and can expand to include questions about long-term care plans, advance directives, and medical insurance. Some parents will have given this plenty of thought while others may be considering some of these subjects for the first time. In some situations, neither parents nor adult children may be well-versed in the health and medical issues faced by aging people – in such cases it may help to consult their doctor or another licensed healthcare professional.

This conversation might also be an opportunity to talk about the parents’ current lifestyle. Are they getting enough exercise? Are they eating well? Do they need mobility aids? Are there any accommodations they need made to their home? Ask what their routine looks like and what might improve their quality of life.

Creating an estate plan

This is an area families may not feel comfortable discussing, but it’s an important consideration. An estate plan is about ensure someone’s wishes are carried out if they become seriously ill or injured or at death. An estate plan can include a will or trust, durable powers of attorney, a living will, and a letter of intent. Together these documents can ensure that parents’ assets are divided according to their wishes and that medical and financial decisions are made according to their wishes if they’re ever incapacitated.

Remember that an estate plan is not just about an inheritance, but can also be about living wishes, life insurance beneficiaries, leaving money to charity, making donations to an alma mater, or putting money in a trust for grandchildren. But if one or both parents don’t have an estate plan yet, encourage them to meet with a lawyer.

The primary purpose of permanent life insurance is to provide a death benefit. Using permanent life insurance accumulated value to supplement retirement income will reduce the death benefit and may affect other aspects of the policy.

Northwestern Mutual is the marketing name for The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company (NM) and its subsidiaries in Milwaukee, WI.

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