Broaching the subject of Estate Planning with your Parents

When you were a kid, your parents dreaded having the “talk” with you, you know, that talk. Now that you’re an adult, it’s time to have an even more important talk with your parents. Bringing up the topic of death can be uncomfortable for both parents and children, but when it comes to handling financial matters, the sooner the conversation takes place, the better. Not only is talking about the prospect of your parents’ deaths dreadful, but it can be just as awkward to talk about their money and where it will go when they pass.

Starting the conversation

Though it may not be obvious, there are various financial and personal benefits to having sensitive conversations with your parents about the future. Ideally, it’s helpful to have this kind of conversation before your parent(s) require help with managing their money. Remember that this discussion is about your parents and their money. Chances are, they want you to be involved in some way, so make sure to listen carefully in order to understand their desires and needs. You may have a few suggestions for them. Bring them up when the timing is appropriate, but know ahead of time that they may not take your suggestions. One of your main goals should be ensure that your parents will be properly taken care of as they age.

With an open dialogue, you and your family will have a sense of empowerment, knowing that you have discussed and began planning for the future. By discussing these matters together, you will be forming a way in which your family legacy and values can be continued through generations. Initiating this conversation early will be beneficial if by the unfortunate chance one of your family members was to become ill or incapacitated before expected. Finally, you, your parents, and your children will develop a stable plan that will bring a sense of comfort and resolve.

How do you bring up the topic of money and death? In reality, there is no easy answer, since this is difficult for even the most open families.

  • Find a comfortable environment during a calm(er) time. This would not be a subject to broach during a disagreement or crisis; make sure everyone is emotionally stable before you start the conversation.
  • Be open and sincere about your plans. Make sure your family knows that you have good intentions about developing a plan that will guarantee care for them in the future. Be transparent, accept constructive criticism with grace, and offer any suggestions that may be helpful.
  • Emphasize the significance of the conversation for all individuals involved. Show your family an example of another family and estate that was not handled properly and as a result caused hurt feelings, confusion, and a financial mess because family members did not have this conversation.

Topics of Discussion

A few important things that you need to know include:

  • Where to find your parents’ will
  • If they have a power of attorney and who it is
  • Whether any health care plans or trusts are set up.

Also, find out if they have a life insurance policy or other assets, and how you can gain access to that when necessary. Make sure you gather or know the location of the passwords to their bank or online accounts and have a list of their debts. If your parents are retired, find out information regarding their pensions, IRA withdrawals, Social Security, and how they’re supporting their retirement.

If by chance, your parents are unable to manage their own finances, you need to seek out a power of attorney. A power of attorney will legally help you manage financial transactions. For example, if your parents need to enter a nursing home, but need to sell their home in order to afford care, a power of attorney will assist in this process.

Finally, there is a possibility that your parents will not have any of their financial matters sorted out and will have no idea as to how to deal with major financial decisions regarding their future. In this case, it may be best to meet with an estate planning lawyer.

Sorting through finances and developing a plan for the future is intimidating for both parents and children, but it’s a crucial step in the process of aging. It will be comforting to know that your parents are in a stable financial state and have all financial matters sorted out. When you feel the timing is appropriate, reach out to your parents and initiate the conversation.

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