The day may come when your parents find it more difficult to take care of their financial matters. Your help can make a difference, whether it’s in the form of your time, advice or financial assistance.

Not all parents are comfortable sharing their financial life with their children, but your efforts in getting them to share can be well worthwhile. Say a parent eventually requires private health care support to continue living in their home but doesn’t have the savings to afford this expensive service. If you’re in a position to help financially, it’s important to have the health care conversation long before a crisis hits. In fact, your parent’s quality of life depends on it.

Managing money

Try to see if your parents are keeping up with basic financial to-dos, such as paying bills and filing tax returns. It’s especially important if a parent is single or widowed, without someone to help. You may be able to help them stay on top of routine money matters.

While they’re sound of mind, find out if they have any insurance policies. If a parent has critical illness insurance, but then suffers an illness that affects their memory of having the policy, you’ll want to know that coverage exists.

Make sure your parents are aware of common fraudulent schemes, as many scammers target seniors. They should be watchful for any requests for money or their personal information, whether made by mail, phone, online or at the door.

Planning their estate

While estate planning is your parents’ domain, you may want to raise the topic if you suspect they’re not on top of things. Are their wills up to date? If the estate will owe a significant amount of tax on assets, have they talked with a professional about managing the tax liability? Is the person named as executor (personal representative, liquidator or estate trustee, depending on the province) still willing and able to perform the duties?

Find out if your parents have a power of attorney for their financial affairs, known as a mandate in Quebec. If they don’t have one, encourage your parents or help them to get this critical document. They might think their spouse or you could step in to manage their finances if they become unable to do so, but that’s not the case without a power of attorney.

Having the talk

You’re fortunate if you’re able to talk directly with your parents about their financial matters. However, for many children, it’s more comfortable if you ease into the topic.

You may want to talk about an actual financial situation involving a relative or another person you know, or even someone in the news. For example, mentioning that a friend’s mother lost thousands of dollars in a scam about unpaid taxes can lead to a discussion about your parents’ awareness of senior fraud. Another approach is to share something about your own financial life, such as that you and your spouse finally got powers of attorney. Then you can find out if your parents have these documents. Whichever method you use, smaller chats over time might be easier than trying for one all-encompassing financial talk.

The sooner you begin the financial conversation with your parents, the better. Otherwise, you could end up stepping in after a health or financial issue develops—and, in that case, you’d be starting off in a stressful and challenging situation.

About the disability tax credit

Your parent may have lived their entire life without a disability only to develop one or more serious physical or cognitive impairments in their senior years. Depending on the impairment’s severity, they may be eligible for the disability tax credit, which can reduce their income tax burden.

The impairments covered by the credit fall under the categories of walking, speaking, hearing, vision, dressing, feeding, eliminating, mental functions and life-sustaining therapy. To be eligible, an individual must have a “severe and prolonged impairment” in one category or “significant limitations” in two or more categories. For example, someone might receive the credit if they need help dressing due to rheumatoid arthritis and they have considerable hearing loss.

If you believe your parent may be eligible, you must submit the Disability Tax Credit Certificate to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), with the application certified by either a medical doctor or a specialist in the field of the individual’s impairment.