When it comes to these financial, health, and legal topics, don't beat around the bush.

By Maggie Seaver
Updated May 30, 2019

It’s crazy to think the people who’ve been taking care of you since you were in diapers might one day—or maybe even right now—need taking care of themselves. As both of you get older, your roles in each other’s lives naturally evolve. And now that you're a fully grown adult, it’s time to get curious about your parents’ plans to support themselves in the future—and how you can help. It sounds scary, but your folks deserve to be taken care of too. And hey, asking these essential (albeit uncomfortable) questions will be a good education for your own future. Dig into these heavy-but-crucial topics now so you’re all on the same page in the future, come what may.

Are you on track to save for retirement?

You yourself should be stowing away money bit by bit to save for retirement, which means your parents should absolutely have a retirement savings plan in mind—and you need to know about it. Will you need to help them financially in the future? Do they have any outstanding debt? Are they working with a reliable financial planner to manage investments and anticipate your money needs in the future?

If not, urge them (kindly) to get on track. Money is an ever-sensitive topic, and it’s pretty surreal to suddenly be the one informing them what to do (image how odd it feels for them too)—but making sure they have enough money to retire comfortably and take care of themselves is paramount.

Have you thought about future long-term care or medical treatment preferences?

Have they secured a living will (or advance directive) stating their preferred end-of-life medical care? You’ll want to make sure they receive treatments that align with their preferences and values (How do they feel about being kept alive via CPR should they stop breathing?) Ask who'll be given the power of attorney for healthcare (also called a healthcare agent or proxy), in the event they’re unable to make medical decisions themselves? These are the kinds of subjects you probably never thought you’d broach, but don’t wait until it’s too late to think rationally about future medical issues regarding your parents.

Have you written a will—and where is it?

Bigger picture, it’s vital to be clued into what they plan to do with their assets once they’re gone; on a more granular scale, you need to know exactly where original documents are, and whether or not they’re up to date. (The last thing you want to be doing in a crisis is scrambling to uncover tucked-away paperwork.) Also find out if they've completed legal documents called "power of attorney," which officially give another individual the authority to make financial and legal decisions on their behalf.