It is a conversation no one is comfortable having – discussing end-of-life decisions with your aging parents. Unfortunately, while it is uncomfortable, it is also necessary. Dying without a will or becoming ill without estate planning documents in place can lead to numerous disputes and heated emotions among relatives.
Here are five things to remember as you prepare for and accomplish this difficult conversation:
- No time like the present. Even though it might be an easier decision to put off the conversation until later, there will be no “perfect” time to discuss estate planning. It is better to identify an acceptable opening, or craft one yourself.
- Start with a question. An easy introduction into the topic is to share your genuine interest. Ask your parents if they have identified an estate planner – are they working with someone already, or would they like your help in finding someone?
- Initiate your prompt. Similar to the above tips, planning a subtle way to start the conversation is in your best interest. You could time it around a celebrity news story or recent trouble that a distant family member went through.
- Involve the team. By working with the entire family rather than singling out one individual for the conversation, you can get a wider conversation started. Eventually, everyone will start to share their worries and concerns about the situation.
- Prepare. It is important to go into the conversation with an understanding of the topics involved. Do some research about the types of documents in a comprehensive estate plan. The last thing you want to do it bombard your loved one with facts and statistics but having the background knowledge necessary to speak intelligently is a must.
It is important to encourage your aging parents through the entire process. Remind them you are available to help whenever they might need it. Reassure them you are not in it for any sort of personal gain, but you are attempting to help them avoid messy family disputes later down the line. Do not hesitate to suggest that they should work with an estate planning attorney who can provide the guidance they need.