If you’ve been looking for a way to talk to your parents about their finances (everyone’s eager to have this conversation, right?), the pandemic can be you’re jumping off point.

As I write in Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk, using current events can be a natural way to start family money talks. The pandemic, in particular, offers a great opportunity to ask your parents about what sort of emergency planning they’ve done. And it’s a reminder that these conversations can’t wait.

So if you’re ready to broach the topic of money with your parents, here’s how to use the pandemic to ask them about their finances.

How to start the conversation

Keep in mind that the goal of this conversation isn’t to spark fear in your parents. So you don’t want to say something like, “I hope you have a will because older people are much more likely to die from the coronavirus.”

That’s an extreme example. But it highlights the need to choose your words carefully. Besides, your parents probably know that their age puts them at a higher risk of contracting the virus.

Instead, the conversation should come from a place of love and concern for your parents’ well-being. You could let your parents know that you’ve been thinking about them and hoping they’ve been staying safe. Then you could ask if anything were to happen, what would you need to know about their finances and estate planning to be prepared for an emergency situation.

Or you could start by sharing how the pandemic has prompted you to take steps to be better prepared financially. For example, if you recently bought a life insurance policy or drafted a will, you could mention to your parents that the pandemic prompted you to do these things that you might have been putting off. Then ask whether they’ve come up with any sort of emergency plans or taken any steps to protect their finances during this difficult time.

What to discuss

Once you get the conversation started, keep it going by asking these questions to gather this essential information about their finances.

Do you a living will?

This legal document spells out what sort of life-sustaining medical treatment you would or would not want. It’s important that your parents draft a living will or advance directive while they’re healthy and mentally competent to make their end-of-life wishes known.

If they’re admitted to the hospital, one of the first questions you’ll likely be asked is whether they have a living will. If they don’t, you don’t want to have to guess whether they would want to be kept on life support or resuscitated. Let your parents know that this should be their decision, and that’s why it’s so important that they have a living will.

They also should name a health care proxy – someone to make health care decisions for them if they can’t. If you’re the one who will be helping your parents as they age, you need this designation. Otherwise, your parents’ doctors won’t be able to discuss their treatment with you.

Typically, I recommend meeting with an attorney to have a living will and other estate planning documents drafted. But if your parents need this document drafted quickly because of the threat of the pandemic, they can download a free advance directive for their state from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. For the form to be valid, though, it typically needs to be signed in front of witnesses or adhere to other signing formalities.

Have you named a power of attorney?

If your parents were to become sick and had to be admitted to the hospital, you couldn’t handle financial matters for them unless you had already been named their power of attorney. You couldn’t access their bank account to pay bills for them. You couldn’t write checks for them. You couldn’t talk to their health insurance company about their hospital bills.

Find out whether they have a power of attorney document that names you or someone they trust as their agent to make financial transactions and decisions for them if they can’t. This document must be signed while they are mentally competent. So if your parents don’t have one already, encourage them to meet with an attorney to have power of attorney documents drafted. (Many attorneys are meeting with clients virtually in light of the pandemic.) Then make sure they give you one of the POA documents they receive because you’ll need it to show to financial institutions as proof of your power of attorney status.

How do you pay your bills?

Being named power of attorney is the first step to being able to help your parents with their finances. But you’ll need to know specifics such as how they pay their bills if a medical emergency forces you to manage money matters for them.

Ask your parents whether they have their bills set up for automatic payment or if they pay by check. If it’s the latter, encourage them to set up automatic bill payment for as many accounts as possible. Let them know that this will ensure that bills are paid – and it will be one less thing for them to worry about.

Also ask if they’re willing to make a list of their bills and their financial accounts, account numbers, usernames and passwords. Tell them they can hang onto the list, but they need to tell you how to access and under what circumstances. Then you’ll have the information you need if an emergency arises to help manage their finances for them.

Other information to gather

If you can, gather information about their medical history and the prescriptions they take. Find out what type of health insurance they have (Medicare, Medicare Advantage, Medicaid or private insurance) and where their insurance cards are located. If they have a medical emergency, you’ll need this information. Also ask if they have written down their final wishes so that there’s no question about what they want.

To make this easier, download my free In Case of Emergency Organizer and give it to your parents so they can record all of their financial, medical and personal information in one place.