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When Children Inherit Parents' Money Problems

December 22, 2008

Bismarck, ND – The big drop in the stock market and the current recession have combined to put many seniors in North Dakota in a financial bind, and their adult children are often blindsided by the extent of their parents' money problems.

Janis Cheney with AARP North Dakota says it's because many older people don't seek help until they're in a crisis, and sometimes don't divulge the full extent of their problems even then. According to Cheney, children grow up not knowing, and never asking about, their parents' finances.

"It's very difficult to talk about, and particularly with our parents. As parents or relatives age, many things become more difficult, and handling money is one of them."

Adult children may find that such surprises are costly, and the added expense can cause them to stop saving, spend savings, skimp on medical care, or pile on debt of their own, so Cheney's advice is to first try to determine early on what the need is.

"Notice if, for example, there might be unpaid bills lying around, or other financial information that might need attention."

She says problems can be headed off with some frank talk now, and Christmas gatherings might provide the perfect opportunity.

Dick Layman, Public News Service - ND