Stack of money with two people facing away from each other, as if not discussing finances

8 ways to decipher your parents’ finances when they refuse to tell you

What if your parents are hiding something from you? Maybe it’s their money, their accounts, or even their will. Maybe they don’t want you to know how much they have in the bank, where they keep all of their important documents, or how much money they’re going to leave you when they die. If this sounds like a familiar situation, here are 8 ways to decipher your parents’ finances when they refuse to tell you.

1) Reason with them

While it’s tempting to jump into detective mode, rifling through your loved one’s things and reading their emails, it’s best not to confront them head-on. Instead, approach them calmly with a request for help understanding their affairs. Many older adults will understand if you explain the need to share information, and talk about how you will need to handle their finances in future. Try saying something like: “I love you so much, and I know how much I will be grieving when something happens to you. I know you don’t want to make that even worse by having me be frustrated and locked out of everything.”

Daughter pushing her mother in a wheelchair through a park
Photo by Raychan on Unsplash

2) Keep track of bank statements

If you’re planning on staying in close contact with a parent, it helps to keep track of their bank statements. This is where all transactions made in person and by check will be listed. You can watch for any suspicious transactions, and make sure you know what accounts they have and where they’re held. Of course, this is more difficult if your parent doesn’t want to share this information with you.

3) Help with passwords

Your parents didn’t grow up with technology, and may not have considered that you will literally be locked out of accounts if you don’t have a password. Oftentimes, it’s enough to explain the situation to them, and start to capture the information using Easeenet or another password manager.

However, If your parent still doesn’t want to give you their passwords, it’s time for a bit of social engineering. Easeenet gives them the ability to restrict your access until after they’re incapacitated, so they have a sense of control and privacy in their accounts. Spend some time reassuring them that you won’t access things without their permission (and don’t even have the ability to!)

Your parents didn’t grow up with technology, and may not have considered that you will literally be locked out of accounts if you don’t have a password.

4) Get them talking about money

If your parent is being secretive about their assets, and won’t even hint at what their financial situation is, ask them about topics that are typically associated with money. This can include practical matters such as savings versus checking accounts (which have bank balances) versus investment accounts (which often have statements). We’ve heard many stories about children not finding accounts for months or years after their parents passed, so encourage your parents to document their accounts somewhere safe and make sure their next-of-kin can access it later, even if they’re not ready to share all the information with you yet.

5) Get someone else involved

Have a family member, close friend, or professional (like an estate planning attorney) help you out. Especially an attorney can advise your parent(s) on the pitfalls of not planning ahead and providing this information. Having this information come from a neutral source can reduce feelings of resentment, since now it’s not about you “asking about your inheritance” but a neutral party reminding them of the importance of organizing their estate so that their next-of-kin can access assets. Also, if a parent doesn’t want to open up about certain things, maybe the friend or relative has insight into what might be underpinning these feelings, and can advise your parent (or both of you) on how to be prepared but still feel secure.

6) Let go of the past

If a parent doesn’t want to discuss their finances, there’s really nothing you can do. You might feel tempted to march into their office and demand an answer, but an angry confrontation might cause them to shut down completely.

While it may be difficult or even impossible to find all of their accounts when they are incapacitated, all you can do is your best, and you may have to let go of the idea that you will capture everything, if they’re truly stubborn about sharing information.

7) Make sure you’re legally ready

One of the most important steps in planning for a parent’s passing is making sure all financial and legal matters are settled. Whether you’ve learned that a parent has named you as a beneficiary, or suspect your parents may have done so, it’s important to contact their attorney or financial advisor as soon as possible. If they’re not involved yet, ask them if it’s time to get started. Be open with their professional about what’s going on; withholding information could result in problems later down the road with their next-of-kin accessing assets.

8) Focus on your relationship

Ultimately, money is less important than maintaining your relationship with your parents. One of the best things you can do is simply have a regular conversation with your parent(s) about their health and financial situation. Mention any concerns or questions that have been going through your mind, ask for clarification if there’s anything you don’t understand, and give them a chance to respond and ask any questions of their own. If possible, try it face-to-face; if not, try to schedule regular Skype or phone meetings for updates on how everything is going.

Easeenet is here to help! We can provide your parent with a comprehensive, secure dashboard to organize and preserve their critical life information, and they maintain complete control over who gets access, and when — so next-of-kin can easily gain access to the accounts and information they need. You can even add an hour of one-on-one onboarding for just $30, so our team will help them set everything up. Get started today!


Erin McCune