As we get older, many adult children are intimidated by the idea of speaking with their parents about estate planning. Although it’s a difficult conversation to have, it is a very important one. There are several reasons why people procrastinate about the conversation. Some families even put it off for decades! Here are some of the common reasons why people put it off:
- Being uncomfortable discussing personal mortality and infirmity, both of which are a troubling topic for most
- Having this type of conversation puts the adult child in a somewhat uncomfortable parental role… one that their parents may not be receptive to
- Conditioned that it is rude to talk about a person’s finances because it is so personal
- The topic is often avoided because of a general lack of understanding around estate planning and elder law
- Timing to have the discussion is off because of health issues, politics, family issues, etc.
- Some parents say they have dealt with such matters long ago, but don’t remember where the pertinent documents are
- Trying to avoid conflict with my spouse, parents, or siblings around matters of finances, inheritances or how siblings will help care for parents
If you remain rational, you’ll see that all of these excuses, however much they trigger anxiety or are designed to deny it, are not realistic reasons for putting off estate planning discussions. On the contrary, many of them are strong arguments in favor of having a frank discussion.
A recent study by Caring.com reveals that 80% of those responding confessed that they had not yet spoken to a loved one about estate planning. Don’t let your family be overwhelmed, or worse, torn apart, by neglecting to discuss matters crucial to all of you. Contacting a well-respected estate planning attorney is a good place to start. If you are located in Southeastern Massachusetts or Cape Cod, you are unlikely to find a finer team than Surprenant & Beneski, P.C.
How Procrastination Can Hurt Your Family
The fact that a family is private about money matters makes it all the more likely that loved ones will be left holding the bag if there is a serious illness or death. It is necessary for someone to know about all assets and how they are banked, invested, or in trust.
It’s also essential for a family member to have access to assets without waiting for probate after death since medical and costs related to the final illness may be enormous. Someone will have to know where relevant documents are kept and passwords stored to proceed.
It is important to have to realize that there is never a right or wrong time to discuss estate planning. There are always reasons (from weather to a heavy workload) not to make decisions, but there are more pressing reasons to make them.
Some Ways to Convince Your Parents (and Yourself) of the Necessity to Discuss their Estate plans
- Present the subject in a positive manner. Remind your parents that you also have to do estate planning and that doing so will provide both of you with a sense of control over medical care, asset protection, the security of the family, and your legacies.
- Remind them that a skilled estate planning attorney will make the process smooth and efficient. Remind your parents that they are not alone in doing this: a skilled and caring elder law attorney is there to help navigate them through the process and to answer any questions that they may. And, it also guarantees that all their documents will be legally binding and work the way you intend at the right time.
- Explain that they will have the option of changing and/or updating their plan whenever it seems necessary due to a wedding, the arrival of a new baby, or some other significant event or circumstance.
- Remind them of issues and people meaningful to them that demand immediate attention if they are to be prepared for the unknowns we all face. Unless they are proactive, they may leave a loved one, such as a special needs child or a relative with a substance abuse problem, unprotected. They may also leave an important wish unspoken or misremembered, such as that they want to leave a particular asset (e.g. an antique clock) to someone special or that they want to donate an organ to a needy individual.
- Make sure everyone is involved that your parents want to be involved. Some family dynamics work while others don’t. Since it is your parents’ estate plan, they should have a say of who they want to be involved and on what level.
- Ask your parents about their plan if they previously had work done. Remind them that their life 20 years ago looks vastly different from the one that they are living in now. There may be grandchildren to consider or an ex in-law that they may want to make sure doesn’t benefit from their plans.
- There’s no time like the present. Procrastination usually makes things worse… and may cost the family more money in the long ru
In the end, the best way to handle “the talk” may be to have it with an experienced, knowledgeable professional in the room. Making an appointment for a virtual consultation with one of our caring estate planning attorneys may be the very best way for your family to proceed.
©Surprenant & Beneski, P.C. 35 Arnold Street, New Bedford, MA 02740, 336 South Street, Hyannis MA 02601 and 45 Bristol Drive, Easton MA 02375. This article is for illustration purposes only. This handout does not constitute legal advice. There is no attorney/client relationship created with Surprenant & Beneski, P.C. by this article. DO NOT make decisions based upon information in this handout. Every family is unique and legal advice can only be given after an individual consultation with an elder law attorney. Any decisions made without proper legal advice may cause significant legal and financial problems.