Dr. Rosie Milligan

As the Bible tells us, there’s a time for all things, and it is definitely a time to get in your parents’ business. As a professional estate planner, a woman of God, a Hospice nurse, and an elder, I have witnessed enough—and enough is enough now!

During 2010, I knew of 10 people who died and seven out of 10 had no life insurance, no burial policy, and no money in the bank to cover their funeral expenses. When there is no plan made for departing this life, it poses a great hardship on the loved ones left behind. Today, as we face many economic crises, we must all become more conscientious about the cost involved in making our earthly transition. It’s expensive for a birth and so it is with a death, and financial preparation is necessary for both.

It’s not out of line to get in your parents’ business. In fact, there are circumstances that dictate a need to do so. Death is a promise, and with death comes a price. Many of our elders suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s, and both of these diseases cause memory loss, mental incompetency, and create decision-making challenges. Even though our parents may have made preparations for death expenses during their lifetime, sometimes they simply fail to pay their life insurance policy, causing the policy to lapse. They may have totally paid for a burial plot or crypt but never told anyone, and the paperwork may have been lost.

What I am saying is, sit yourself down and converse eyeball to eyeball with your parents and gather pertinent information that’s necessary to assure their well-being—mentally, physically, emotionally, and financially. Remember, when people are challenged with dementia, Alzheimer’s, or other forms of senility, they don’t come and tell you that they suffer from these challenges. In fact, they are not even aware that they have a problem. When you try to point out their problem to them, they think that you are the problem. Eventually, I will do a follow-up article on what signs to look for regarding dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

This is the type of information that you need to obtain from your parents:

1) Their doctors’ names and telephone numbers 

2) The location of their will, trust, insurance policies, and cemetery papers. 

3) The location of their safe deposit box. (If your loved one should die and you do not have access to their safe deposit box (meaning your name is not on the account) and you cannot locate the safe deposit box key, it could cost you nearly $300 to have the box opened. The banker will only allow you to take out the will, trust, and insurance policies.)

4) Their bank accounts, name and address of their banks, and if they have a named beneficiary on the accounts.

5) Their stocks and bonds, IRAs, etc.

6) Determine if they have an Advanced Healthcare Directive (Power of Attorney for health care) and Durable Power of Attorney (Power of Attorney for financial matters). If they do not have these documents, explain the importance to them. If there are signs of senility and forgetfulness, ask to see their bills, mortgage payments, insurance policies, utility bills, and call to make sure they are being paid.

7) Find out if they have a written description of how they want their burial service to be handled.

8) If they have real property or assets valued over $100,000, talk to them about a living trust; if the property or assets are under $100,000, talk to them about a will. If they cannot pay for a living trust, suggest that the beneficiaries pay for it. After all, the money saved by avoiding attorney, probate, and other fees will be monies for the beneficiaries.

Following is a quote from Women’s’ Guide to the Insurance Industry by Chris Rodgers.


“It is estimated that up to 40 percent of insurance policies and annuities go unclaimed (maturity) each year. This is due to death or incapacity (sickness). Most are ‘forgotten’ about, plans from old company employer’s retirement, bank safe deposit boxes, secret hiding places, new residency, foreign country, and general gifts. Not surprising is the fact that this situation was due to people ‘not’ informing family, godparents and trustees of prearranged purchases. This is one secret you should not keep.” 

I heard of a case where a brother had paid for the funeral expenses for his sister. He later discovered while clearing out her house that she had a crypt and funeral arrangements had already been paid in full.

Come on, family, we are our brothers’ keeper. Let’s be family for real. Let’s start having more personal conversations. And yes, it’s okay to get in your parents’ business. Be there for them.

Dr. Rosie Milligan, Internet Radio Talk Show Host, Business Consultant, Estate  Planner, Author of “Creating A New You In Six Weeks Made Simple” Owner of Professional Business Management/Consulting Services. 323-750-3592, email:drrosie@aol.com