Nothing can fully prepare you for caring for an elderly parent, but proactive discussions can ease the stress once the time comes.


Understanding the wishes of your parents or other elderly family members is essential. While the topic may have come up in conversation over the years, it’s critical that parents formally declare their wishes in a set of standard documents that can be referred to in the event of illness or disability.

Why? Clear instructions from parents can help family members avoid conflict during a time of crisis. In addition, without the right documents in place (i.e., power of attorney, living will, trust, etc.), courts could decide matters in a way that contravenes your parents’ wishes. To avoid this, ensure that your parents have suitable documents in place before care is needed.

To help start the conversation, consider asking your parents the following questions:

-Do you have a durable power of attorney for property? For healthcare?

-Do you have a living will?

-When was your last will and testament updated?

-When was your trust last updated?

-Are the beneficiaries of your retirement accounts correct?

-Are all your accounts and investments titled correctly?


Having a parent in need of care can be challenging, costly, and stressful for everyone involved. It may feel easier to push potentially awkward conversations off, but sitting down to review your parents’ documents will put your mind at ease and ensure that you understand their wishes. Think of it as a gift to your parents—and yourself.

For more tips on becoming financially engaged, explore Women & Wealth, a new Bernstein podcast series designed to educate, empower, and inspire female investors, and for additional thought leadership, check out the related blogs here.

The views expressed herein do not constitute and should not be considered to be legal or tax advice. The tax rules are complicated, and their impact on a particular individual may differ depending on the individual’s specific circumstances. Please consult with your legal or tax advisor regarding your specific situation.

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