If your parents are getting older, then you’re probably worried about their health and wellbeing. But you also might be concerned about whether their affairs are in order when the time comes. This can be a difficult topic to think about, but those who put it off can see some very harsh consequences. Sure, assets can fall into the hands of those individuals whom your parents never wanted to inherit, but it can also put your parents’ healthcare and financial decisions in jeopardy. While a holistic estate plan can help address these matters, the truth of the matter is that many people procrastinate or simply don’t want to talk about these matters.
If your parents fall into that situation, then you might need to take a proactive role in having a conversation with them about estate planning. That might sound daunting, but there are certain tips that you can utilize to help you ease into the topic and spur action that protects your parents’ interests and their estate:
- Know what your parents have in place: Sometimes individuals start the estate planning process but neglect to see it all the way through. This can leave them with limited protection and estate planning documents that are out-of-date. By understanding what they already have, you can better couch the discussion in terms of what they need.
- Be prepared to ease into the conversation: Discussing death is hard. So don’t expect to cover every aspect of estate planning in one talk. Instead, be prepared to ease into it and carry it on over the course of days, weeks, or even months.
- Understand their fears: There’s probably good reason why your parents have put off estate planning. Empathize with them to let them know that you understand the challenges they’re facing. By being compassionate, you can help give your parents a sense that they’re not in this alone.
- Know what is important to your parents: There are probably certain things in life that your parents hold in high regard. Whether that’s giving back to the community, providing security for children, or driving loved ones to obtain goals like graduating college, knowing their goals can help you steer the conversation. This way a discussion about estate planning doesn’t come down to a talk about death, but rather a conversation about how they can help build the future they want others to have.
- Let your sibling know what you’re doing: Don’t try to hide the ball when it comes to discussing estate planning. Doing so will only cause conflict, and it might leave you at the receiving end of allegations regarding coercion or undue influence. Even if you don’t foresee that happening with your siblings, you’re better off looping them into the situation. They might even be able to help.
- Listen and take notes: Once your parents get comfortable with the topic, they’ll probably have a lot to say. They might have ideas about their healthcare as they age and how they want their funeral to play out, and they’ll also probably have a very firm position on how they want their assets to be distributed. By writing down what they say, you can revisit the topic to hone down on specifics, thereby giving their vision some real shape to which an estate plan can be tailored.
- Don’t wait: A conversation about estate planning is best had while your parents are still healthy. If you wait too long, then you run the risk of looking greedy or heartless. It might also be too late for important decisions if you wait too long.
As challenging as this discussion can be, it’s only the start of the estate planning process. Your parents will still need legal documents in place to protect their interests and move them, their loved ones, and their estate toward a future they envision. For this, experienced legal professionals can provide guidance and competent representation to make the process as easy and successful as possible.