How to Talk with Aging Parents About Estate Planning

During a recent webinar, one of the questions we were asked was about how to address the topic of estate planning with your aging parents. It can be a tough topic to bring up as it can be emotional. After all, no one wants to consider their own mortality. However, as we covered in the webinar, estate planning is not necessarily just about what happens when you die. It also helps families prepare for incapacity and/or cost of long-term care. It’s important to realize that anything can happen to anyone at anytime so it is a good idea for everyone 18 years or older to prepare the key foundational documents. In terms of long-term care planning, it is always better to prepare in advance. Below are some strategies that may help in approaching aging parents on the subject of estate planning.

“Mom, dad, we need to talk.” Many people dread discussing financial arrangements with their aging parents. It’s not easy reminding our parents that their time left on this earth is limited, but it’s necessary for their (and your) peace of mind.

So, what’s the best way to talk to your aging parents about estate planning? We’ve provided a few sincere approaches to help broach that intimate conversation.

Ask About Their Wishes:
Often, it’s not what we say, but how we say it. For example, consider the following questions:
– “How do you want to be honored or remembered?”
– “What would you like to leave behind for the grandchildren?”
– “How shall we pass along the family heirlooms?”

Instead of focusing on your parents’ death or compromised abilities, focus on their desires. In this context, your parents have control over their decision. This approach opens up a comfortable pathway to discussing funeral arrangements and property matters, such as what to do with their house or to whom they desire to pass down assets.

Express Yourself as a Concerned Child:
Many loving parents shudder at the thought of worrying their child. If you know your aging parents care deeply about your anxiety or concerns, start off the discussion by explaining a few things you’re worried about. Have you stressed about their debt and how it will be paid off? Are you unsure of how to handle their medical affairs in case of illness?

Explain to your parents that you and your siblings will be at ease if you’ve prepared as a family ahead of time before the unexpected has a chance to occur. Your parents might realize it’s better to discuss familial matters now rather than leave you scrambling in a crisis.

Come Seeking Advice:
“Mom, dad, I want to consider the kids’ well-being in case something happens to me. What are your thoughts on me hiring an estate planning attorney?” Open the floor by inquiring about their own estate planning attorney. It’s a good way to tell if your parents have considered estate planning already. Guide the conversation about how you desire to handle medical and financial affairs, going through a checklist of everything you need to address, such as designated beneficiaries, power of attorney decisions, and estates. Seeking your parents’ advice may change their perspective on solving their own matters.

We’re Here for You:
We understand that money and health are not always easy topics of discussion to bring up with your parents. However, a gentle, strategic approach may be what you need to get the conversation going. For legal advice, helpful planning tools and financial guidance, the experienced attorneys at Surprenant & Beneski are here for you.