No one wants to think about their loved one passing away or losing the ability to make decisions for themselves. You may know that your parent has created a will, so it may be easy to assume you don’t have to inquire further into their estate planning. However, if you don’t obtain some foundational information about your parent’s arrangements, it can create a lot of unnecessary difficulties for you down the road.

For many, a will can feel like a safety net. Knowing that your parent has created a will can make it feel as though any end-of-life arrangements are planned for – and will somehow fall into place on their own. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

Where should you look?

In order to carry out your parent’s wishes, you will need to know where they have stored key information and assets. This is something you should have an open dialogue with your parent about, while they’re still healthy. Ask your parent which of the following they have set up – and where you can find them:

  • Will or trust: This may be kept by the executor, stored in a safety deposit box or hidden in a safe space. Regardless, if you can’t find it, you won’t be able to make sure your parent’s wishes are carried out.
  • Medical directives: If your parent becomes incapacitated, you need to know where to find information about their wishes and their healthcare power of attorney.
  • Safety deposit key: If your parent has a safety deposit box, you’ll need to know where it – and the key – are located.
  • Power of attorney documents: You need to know whom your parent has authorized to make decisions on their behalf.
  • Contact information of your parent’s financial advisor and estate planning attorney: They can help you make sense of all of your parent’s plans and wishes.
  • Property deeds, car titles, bond and stock certificates: If your parent passes away with debt, you may have to sell some of their property to pay off creditors.
  • Insurance policies: If your parent purchased a life insurance plan and listed you as a beneficiary, you may be entitled to receive proceeds.

The pandemic has shed a light on how fragile human life can be. Talking to your parent about their death or incapacitation is never a comfortable conversation to have – but it’s important for all of us to do. Going through this checklist with them may be a more comfortable way of broaching this delicate topic.