Talk to your parents about estate planning. Death and money management aren’t topics most people want to openly discuss, especially with their children. Even if the talk is awkward, it is still critical to have a frank and honest conversation about estate planning with your parents—sooner rather than later. You want your family to be prepared ahead of time instead of waiting until sudden health problems or life changes take the opportunity away.

Why You Need to Discuss Estate Planning With Your Parents

The main goal of estate planning is to keep the courts out of your family’s business and ensure your mother or father’s wishes are known and followed. Someone assigned by a court who has never met your family simply isn’t the right person to be making important decisions about finances and healthcare. Probate is also lengthy, expensive, and emotionally draining

It's better to have a legal plan in place drafted by a skilled attorney to bypass those estate issues altogether. Your parents worked hard to earn their assets, and they deserve to have their estate distributed according to their wishes while utilizing the best tax strategies possible to avoid losing anything that should stay within the family. 

Estate planning isn’t just about divvying up property, though. Mom and Dad also need to plan ahead for health changes while they are still alive. Putting together advance directives and planning for covering expensive long-term care costs should also be included as part of the estate planning process. In particular, your parents need to:

  • Ensure all accounts and beneficiaries are up to date.
  • Draft a will, or update it if one already exists.
  • Consider if they have specific wishes for heirlooms or want their money to go towards children’s education funds, providing for disabled family members, and so on.
  • Plan for who should serve in key roles like the executor of the will, overseeing trusts to disperse assets, and making medical decisions. 
  • Think about the type of end-of-life care they want to receive.

How to Talk to Your Parents About Estate Planning

The important thing is not to pass the buck by assuming someone else in the family will start the conversation, or that a DIY estate plan will cover everything when your parent eventually passes away. Not sure how to initiate the talk? Here are some important tips for starting the estate planning conversation:

  • Start the discussion with empathy, not numbers. Stress that you want to know how to best follow their wishes in accordance with their values. This can help avoid resentment from parents who may not want to accept the realities of aging or the possibility that they need help.
  • Acknowledge the conversation could be uncomfortable. No one wants to think about being bedridden or dying, and parents don’t typically enjoy having the roles reversed so that children are caring for them.  
  • Use specific examples. Talk about family or friends who went through probate, or bring up the topic by mentioning an article you’ve seen about the importance of estate planning.
  • Schedule a specific time to have the conversation in full after bringing up the topic initially. Of course, in some situations, this may not be feasible. You know your parents best, and in some cases having a less formal structure may get better results.
  • Bring everyone who will be impacted to the meeting. This helps avoid problems later so no one in the family feels left out of the process, and lets everyone know your parent’s wishes at the same time.
  • Avoid judgment of your parent’s financial or medical decisions. The goal is to have a productive conversation that convinces family to take action towards estate planning quickly, not have the meeting devolve into an argument.
  • Utilize an estate planning attorney for the family discussion. Having someone who isn’t connected to your family but who has extensive knowledge of elder law keeps the conversation grounded in calm facts, rather than being swayed by emotion.

Talk to an Estate Planning Professional Today

Are you ready to have the talk with your parents? An estate plan is something everyone needs eventually, and it offers peace of mind for your parents. Set up a no-obligation consultation and find out how we can help protect your family‘s assets.

Ted Alatsas
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Trusted Brooklyn, New York Family Law Attorney helping NY residents with Elder Law and Asset Protection