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100 Questions to Ask Your Parents Before They Die

It's never easy to think about the inevitable passing of one’s parents and while it's impossible to prepare for everything, it is possible to have a conversation with your parents about their life. Asking them important questions will help you ensure their wishes are carried out when the time comes and that you know everything you want to about your parents. If you’re not sure where to start, this comprehensive list will help.

Getting started

There are a few different categories of questions you may feel inclined to ask your parents before they die. Some questions to ask a dying parent include questions about their childhood, their upbringing, their relationships, while others may have more to do with logistical tasks (financial questions, account questions, legal questions, etc.). The first step you'll want to take is to identify your goals. Before you come up with a list of questions to ask a dying parent, consider asking yourself the following questions:

  • What do I want to know about my parents' life?
  • What kind of relationship do I want with my parents?
  • What do I need to know in order to take care of them now and after they die?
  • What questions will help me understand my parents better?
  • What is my goal in asking these questions?
  • Why is it important to me that I know the answer to these questions?
  • Why have I never asked these questions before?
  • How will I feel if I don't like the answer to these questions?

Answering these questions for yourself can help you identify your goals in asking questions of your parents. Maybe you're most interested in their childhood and upbringing, maybe you want to know what their romantic advice, or maybe you want to know why they did something when you were younger (or older) -- whatever your goals or reasoning is, it can help to identify that beforehand so that you can better explain if they ask you why you're interested.

Once you've identified the importance of the questions, you can consider some of the questions in the following categories (and of course, any category you decide to include).

Logistical questions

Logistical questions are questions about the more concrete and tangible things in life. This can include questions around a few different areas.

Health and medical

  • Do you have an advanced directive? If so, where is it?
  • Do you have a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare? If so, who is it?
  • Who is your healthcare proxy?
  • Who is your primary care physician?
  • What are your current medications and dosages? Do you have any allergies? What are your thoughts on end-of-life care?
  • Do you have a DNR (do-not-resuscitate order)?
  • What are your thoughts on organ donation?
  • Do you have life insurance? If so, who is the beneficiary?
  • Do you have long-term care insurance?
  • Do you have any other type of insurance?

Gather key info

Financial questions may include questions such as:

  • Do you have a will? Does it need to be updated? Where is it located?
  • Do you have a living will?
  • Do you have a trust? If so, who are the trustees?
  • Who are the beneficiaries of your will or trust?
  • Do you have a financial power of attorney?
  • Who handles your bills and finances?
  • Do you have any investment accounts?
  • Who is your financial advisor?
  • Do you have a retirement plan? If so, how is it funded?
  • What are your thoughts on pre-paying for funeral arrangements?
  • Do you have burial insurance, funeral insurance, or a prepaid funeral plan?
  • Do you have any accounts that need to be closed or transferred after you die?
  • Do you own any property?

Gather key info

Insurance

There are many different types of insurance policies folks might have, so it's likely your parent will have some type of insurance policies that will need to be closed after they pass away:

  • Do you have any life insurance policies?
  • Do you have any health insurance policies?
  • Do you have long-term care insurance?
  • Do you have homeowners insurance, auto insurance, or renter's insurance?
  • Do you have any type of supplemental insurance policy, like cancer insurance or a critical illness policy?
  • Do you have any other type of insurance policy?
  • Who are the beneficiaries of your insurance policies?
  • Is there anyone who should be notified about your death (like a business partner for a life insurance policy)?
  • What will happen to your policies after you die?
  • How do I make a claim on your life insurance policy?

Gather key info

Funeral and other services

Funeral arrangements can be an intensely personal choice for some and a choice that others don't have a serious preference one way or another. Questions you might ask include:

  • Do you have any funeral arrangements made?
  • What type of services do you want?
  • Do you want to be cremated or buried? If neither of those, do you have a preferred method of disposition?
  • Where do you want your services to be held?
  • Do you have specific pallbearers in mind?
  • If you are buried, do you have a plot paid for? If so, where is it located?
  • If you don't have a plot purchased, where would you like your final resting place to be?
  • Do you have a preference for your funeral service (e.g., music, readings, etc.)?
  • Who do you want to deliver your eulogy?
  • Is there anyone you do not want at your funeral?
  • Do you have a preference for what you would like to happen to your remains?
  • Do you have any other final requests or wishes?

Gather key info

Personal questions

Aside from logistical questions, there are more personal questions to ask parents about their life before they pass. These questions can span their personal relationships, their family history, their legacy, questions or advice they may have, and other categories related to reflecting on their own life.

Childhood and family history questions

Following are some questions to ask your parents before they die regarding their family history, childhood, and own upbringing.

  • When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?
  • Who are/were your role models?
  • What are your favorite family traditions?
  • Do you have any siblings? If so, what is/was your relationship like with them?
  • Who are/were your parents? What are/were their professions? What was/is your relationship like with - them?
  • Do you have any other relatives you are close with?
  • What are your favorite stories from childhood?
  • Anything you’re especially proud of, or a time when you got in trouble?
  • What do you wish was different about your upbringing?
  • What was school like for you?
  • What hobbies or passions did you have when you were younger?
  • Who were your best friends?
  • What were you like as a child?
  • What was your favorite book growing up?
  • What was a favorite family trip or vacation you took?
  • What was one especially difficult moment of your childhood? What was a particularly bright one?
  • What was your favorite subject in high school?
  • Who is your favorite relative? Who is your least favorite relative?
  • How did your family resolve conflict? Has this changed over time?
  • What were your parents like when you were growing up?
  • How was love expressed to you in your family?

General life advice and wisdom questions

The following questions can elicit advice or wisdom from your parents about different aspects of their life.

  • What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned in life?
  • If you could go back and change one thing, what would it be?
  • How do you define the meaning of happiness?
  • How do you define success?
  • What advice would you give your younger self?
  • What are your thoughts on taking risks?
  • What do you think is the most important thing to teach children?
  • How do you deal with difficult times or setbacks?
  • Who has been most instrumental in your life? Why?
  • What advice would you give someone facing a similar situation as you?
  • Do you have any life-changing moments? What were they and how did they change your perspective?
  • What has been your proudest moment?
  • Do you have any regrets in life? If so, what are they?
  • Is there anything you still hope to accomplish?
  • What do you think is the most important thing to focus on in life?
  • What advice would you give to someone struggling with a problem?
  • What do you think is the key to a happy and successful life?
  • Do you have any pearls of wisdom to share?

These questions can be tough for some people to answer, but they can also lead to incredibly powerful and memorable conversations with your parents. If your parents are open to answering them, they can provide valuable insight and wisdom that you can take with you for the rest of your life.

Legacy questions

The following questions can help you understand your parents’ thoughts on their legacy and what they hope to leave behind.

  • What do you want people to remember about you when you’re gone?
  • Who do you want to remember you?
  • What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind?
  • What are your hopes for the future?
  • What are your thoughts on death and dying?
  • What do you want people to say about you at your funeral?
  • What is the most important thing you want to teach your children?
  • What values or lessons do you hope to instill in your children or grandchildren?

Obviously, you don’t need to feel pressured to ask every single one of these questions, and you may already know the answer to some or many. Choose which questions feel most relevant to you and comfortable for you to discuss with your parents (or consider branching outside of your comfort zone and asking some questions that may make you feel uncomfortable). Feel free to come up with your own questions and tailor the list to your experience and relationship with your parents.

If you need help handling logistics and want an easy to follow guide for recording important information before a loved one passes away, consider using Ever Loved’s key information checklist. This checklist makes it easy for you to record important information about a parent (or other important person) to make it easier for you to handle logistics after they pass away.

Get started

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Last updated June 22, 2022
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