10 things you'll need if your parent has a serious health crisis

It can be hard to talk to our parents and loved ones about what would happen in a health crisis, or about end-of-life decision-making. Emotions can run high. If you're having trouble talking to your parents about planning for the future, consider using another person's situation as a springboard.

Ultimately, your loved ones will need to set up their estate plan on their own, but knowing the existence and location of those documents can be critical in an emergency. Talking about where the information is or should be kept can also be a springboard for a more complete discussion.

Here are 10 things you will need to be able to find in a health crisis:

1. Any advance healthcare directives, living wills, do not resuscitate orders, or healthcare powers of attorney your parents have set up. If there is a designated decision-maker, contact that person.

2. Health insurance information, including any supplemental policy information.

3. Important medical records. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act can make it hard for family members to see medical records, and you may need to fill the doctor in on your parent's past and existing health conditions.

4. End-of-life choices. It's tough, but a health crisis could end in death. Along with medical choices, they may have preferences about funerals and memorials.

5. Wills, estate plans, life insurance and key documents. Check that any life insurance policies are paid up. Make sure you know the location of all estate documents, tax forms, birth certificates, marriage license, veterans' service information and IDs.

6. Deeds and titles to land and titled property such as cars and recreational vehicles. Make sure you know their locations in case they are needed for probate.

7. Contents of any safe deposit boxes and their keys. Find out about the process for accessing the box upon the owner's death.

8. The location of any hidden valuables. Many people hide cash and valuables around the house to be used in an emergency. If they don't want to share the information, ask them to put the location in their will.

9. Information about investments. Get the phone numbers for any financial advisors and know the location of all account numbers. Familiarize yourself with the rules around required distributions, withdrawal penalties and fees.

10. Bank accounts and bills. Ask your parents to set up a durable power of attorney or add you or a sibling as a signatory on their accounts so that someone will be able to pay the bills if your parent is incapacitated. Know how to find their account numbers, online passwords and PINs. Find out whether bills are being paid automatically or if you need to pay them manually.

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