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Helping Your Parents Get Their Affairs in Order


  1. Gather and discuss financial information: Copies of deeds to real estate, statements of financial assets, life insurance policies, pensions, bank accounts, retirement accounts, safe deposit box, vehicles, funeral and burial information, savings bonds, etc. Find out how assets are owned. Generally, if there’s a survivor, Joint tenancy avoids probate as do properly completed beneficiary designations. Life insurance, CDs, retirement accounts, and other assets may have beneficiary designations. Make sure those are current and do not name ex-spouses or deceased persons. Update and change beneficiary designations as needed.

  2. Don’t forget digital assets and passwords to important online information, investment and bank accounts, programs, social media, and websites.


Gather estate planning documents such as:

  1. Trusts

  2. Wills

  3. Prenuptial agreements

  4. Powers of attorney for Property

  5. Powers of attorney for Healthcare

  6. Living wills

  7. Business buyout agreements;

  8. Discuss who is the named trustee, executor, agent with power of attorney, etc. If documents are 5 years or older, or no longer reflect current wishes, these documents should be updated by an estate planning attorney.

  9. Schedule a meeting with an estate planning attorney and possibly an elder law attorney.


Gather legal information: social security numbers, medicare cards, birth certificates, death certificates, marriage certificates, divorce decrees, vaccination cards, etc.


Gather information about memberships, creditors, debts, loans, mortgages, insurance, expenses, etc. If your parents passed away, what bills would need to be paid?


Discuss desires and preferences for medical housing, assisted living, memory care, or in-home caregivers for any terminal illness situation. Gather any long term care insurance policy information.


Discuss end of life wishes with them. What is important to them? Consider whether they have or want a living will. Consider the website: 5 wishes.


Obtain the accountant’s name and contact information, and obtain a copy of the last income tax return.


Discuss last wishes regarding:

  • Funeral

  • Burial or Cremation;

  • Any organ or anatomical gifts or donations


We recommend that parents discuss these critical issues with all their children together, especially in a blended family. This avoid surprises and potentially prevent arguments after parents are disabled or deceased about what was said in separate conversations, such as, “Dad told me he did not want to be cremated.” Or, “Mom put me in charge of the safe deposit box.” Or, “They told me I didn’t have to pay back my loan they gave me.”

Important professionals:

  • Insurance Agents

  • The estate planning and elder law Attorney

  • Accountant

  • Brokerage Firms

  • Financial Planner or Investment Advisor

  • Credit Card Companies

  • Insurance Companies

  • Health Care Agents (health, dental, vision, medical, etc.)

  • Asset Holders and financial institutions

  • Social Security Administration

  • Veteran’s Administration

  • Professional Associations, Religious Associations, Clubs, Schools, Unions, Fraternal Groups

Documents to Locate and Have Available:

  • Powers of attorney for property and healthcare

  • Living will

  • Last Will and Testament

  • Any Living Trust or Testamentary Trust

  • Safety Deposit Box Keys

  • Nuptial Agreements

  • Death Certificates

  • Birth Certificates

  • Marriage Certificates

  • Medical Records

  • Military Records

  • Divorce Decrees

  • Legal Name Change Decrees

  • Bank Records

  • Income Tax Records

  • Stock Certificates

  • Bonds

  • Real Estate Deeds

  • Automobile Title/Registration

  • Notes Receivable

  • Insurance Policies

  • Annuity Contracts

  • Leases

  • Business Interest or Ownership Documentation

  • Documentation of Assets

Potential assets:

  • Safety Deposit Box(es)

  • Real Estate

  • Family Home

  • Vacation Home(s) and/or Land

  • Time Share

  • Real Estate for investment purposes

  • Rental Property(ies)

  • Gas or Oil Leases

  • Burial Plots

  • Cash

  • Deposit Accounts:

  • Checking

  • Savings

  • Money Market Accounts

  • Certificates of Deposit

  • Bank Accounts

  • Credit Union Accounts

  • Security Deposits

  • Investments:

  • Brokerage Accounts

  • Stock Certificates or Book Shares

  • Bonds

  • Margin Accounts

  • Mutual Funds

  • Annuities

  • Viaticals

  • Retirement Interests:

  • IRAs

  • 401(k)s

  • SEPs

  • Annuities

  • Keogh Accounts

  • Profit Sharing Accounts

  • Tax Deferred Accounts

  • Pensions

  • Business Interests:

  • Interest in a closely held corporation

  • Joint Ventures

  • Partnership Interests

  • Stocks and Interest in unincorporated business

  • Possible vested benefits from employment:

  • Pension death benefit

  • Payment of accrued vacation or sick leave

  • Deferred compensation

  • Bonuses

  • Commissions

  • Possible Refunds, such as a tax refund

  • Insurance Policies

  • Life Insurance

  • Accidental Death

  • Capital Accumulation:

  • Deferred Salary Plan

  • Cash Bonus Plans

  • Deferred Profit Sharing Plans

  • Short-Term Deferred Income

  • Stock Bonus Plans

  • Stock Purchase Plans

  • Share Unit Plans

  • Stock Appreciation Rights

  • Stock Options

  • Phantom Stock

  • Incentive Growth Funds

  • Money Owed to the Decedent

  • Loans given to private persons (Notes receivable)

  • Beneficial interest in an estate/trust

  • Intellectual Property:

  • Patents

  • Copyrights

  • Trademarks

  • Royalties

  • Other intellectual property

  • Personal Property:

  • Automobiles, trucks, motorcycles, campers and trailers, boats, planes, farming vehicles, snowmobiles, other recreational vehicles or other vehicles

  • Valuable equipment such as sporting equipment, restaurant equipment, tools, photographic equipment, or equipment related to other vocations and/or hobbies

  • Valuable musical instruments, artwork, heirlooms, jewelry, china, crystal, furs, antiques

  • Valuable Collections such as guns, art, wine, coins, stamps, books, etc.

  • Valuable animals such as pets and livestock

  • Furniture and furnishings

  • Possible Unclaimed Property held by the State, such as the Treasurer of the State of Illinois


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