As our parents age, most of us find ourselves more concerned about their physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. But there’s another aspect of your parents’ lives that may leave you with an unsettled felling: their estate plan. In our society, discussing sensitive issues like money and death is challenging, and it can be especially difficult to do so with your parents.
However, the topic needs to be broached at some point, especially if you want your parents to make sure that they have their affairs in order as they see fit. But how do you go about doing that? Here are some tips that we hope will help spur the conversation:
- Inform family members of your intent: Before you start talking about estate planning with your parents, you should consider telling your family members what it is that you’re doing. After all, you want to avoid any perception of impropriety, including coercion and undue influence. So, be open and honest with your family members, making sure that you voice your concerns. You may end up getting additional support.
- Know how to start: You have to know how to ease into the conversation of estate planning with your parents. Try to think of other situations you’ve heard of, perhaps even at a personal level, where the lack of an estate plan caused problems. Then start asking your parents questions about it. If that’s not an option, then try to find a sensitive way to voice your lingering concerns about their wellbeing and the future of their estate.
- Listen and be empathetic: Talking about death certainly isn’t easy, so be understanding of your parents’ hesitancy. Also, be an active listener. Once the conversation gets rolling, your parents are probably going to say a lot of things that you didn’t know. It might be helpful to take notes so that you and your parents can refer back to them later.
- Focus on priorities: On a macro level, a lot of estate planning is about the transfer of wealth. But to your parents, the process is probably about much more than that. It could be about supporting their favorite charitable organization so that they can contribute to work that they believe in. Or it could be about motivating a grandchild to graduate college. The options are nearly limitless. By focusing on what’s important to your parents, you can help them steer the conversation toward the estate planning options that they should consider to support what they value most.
- Don’t wait until it’s too late: Far too many people wait to talk about estate planning until it’s too late. This can cause the conversation to come off in an unintended way, with your parents feeling like you think that death is imminent, and you only want to protect your interests. There are ways around this perspective, of course, but the conversation can be much easier had if you start it when your parents are healthy.
- Be patient: A conversation focused on estate planning is likely to be ongoing rather than wrapped up in one discussion. That’s okay. Stick with it and remind your parents of the importance each time that the issue is brought up.
Help your parents understand their options
One reason why people put off estate planning is that they simply don’t know what the process has to offer them. Here, you can help your parents by discussing the various estate planning tools at their disposal, highlighting how each of them could prove beneficial to them and their estate. If you need to know more about what those options could entail, or if your parents want more information, then we encourage you to continue to research this area of the law.