Talk With Mom, Dad About "What if . . ."

05/02/2017 12:31 pm ET

With Mother’s Day, and then Father’s Day, coming up, maybe it’s time to have an open discussion about what happens when something happens. That isn’t a pleasant thought, but if you’re willing to have that conversation, you’ll make things much easier at a tough time in the future.

No one likes to think about mortality. Young adults know they are immortal. Middle agers are fighting the concept of growing older. And the baby boomer generation figures it can bend the rules of aging as it has changed so much of our society in the past sixty years.

It may be that the first person who will live to age 150 has already been born, and we’ve certainly extended life expectancies. But sooner or later, our time will come.

Will we leave a giant puzzle for our loved ones and heirs to figure out? Will they be able, and legally empowered, to handle the assets we leave behind? How can we alll we smooth the way to making this transition a bit less painful?

By the way, this is not just a discussion for aging parents. Young families, with young children, need to organize their finances as well. Who will know the passwords to access everything from bank accounts to 40l(k) plans to your valuable cache of airline miles?

Years ago I created my Personal Financial Organizer form, still available free at my website – www.TerrySavage.com -- when you sign up for my free newsletter (which arrives when I’m in the mood to say more than I can put in my columns!). It comes to you by a link in a return email, and you can print out as many copies as you want, giving them to friends and family to create their own roadmap to finances.

This four-page form is used both as a discussion-starter and organizational tool. Once filled out, it serves as a guide to locating your investment accounts, bank and brokerage accounts, will and estate planning documents, cemetery deed, safe deposit box and keys, and myriad other documents that would be hard to find in a crisis or after you’re gone, as well as passwords and credit card account numbers.

But Harris Rosen has taken it a step further in My Family Record Book ($15.95 on Amazon.com). The octogenarian has explained not only what you should organize, but why – and explains the pitfalls and consequences of not knowing this important information.

Rosen speaks directly to seniors, giving resources and references on everything from how to order a tombstone to services that will take care of your pet after you are gone! There is an entire section on downsizing after the loss of a spouse, and advice on how to dispose of furniture and clothing to charitable organizations that will make good use of these items. But mostly he focuses on organizing your financial papers to make life easier for your survivors.

Two other books of a similar genre are the best-selling Getting it Together by Melanie Cullen, published by Nolo Press ($14.31 on Amazon), which includes downloadable forms, and the spiral-bound Peace of Mind Planner by Peter Pauper Press ($12.04 on Amazon). Both make your planning organized and accessible to family members.

By now you get the idea. Any of these tools will make the perfect gift for the upcoming holidays – and provide a starting point for important discussions of end-of-life matters – from locating health care directives and powers of attorney to planning a funeral or finding the policies and assets that will allow the survivors to deal with financial issues.

Yes, it’s a tough subject to tackle on Mother’s Day or Father’s day. But it’s not nearly as tough as it will be to try to figure it out in a crisis when they are not able or around to help you. And that’s The Savage Truth

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