How Do You Bring Up Estate Planning to Your Parents?
Do you worry your parents don't have their estate planning in order? Are you unsure how to tactfully approach the subject of wills, trusts, beneficiaries, retirement accounts, living wills, power of attorney, medical power of attorney and long term care planning? When visiting family over the holiday season it seems like an appropriate time to discuss important matters of estate planning and long term care planning casually but surprisingly many times the subject does not get brought up. So how do you talk to your parents about estate planning or other aspects of long term care planning?
Your Parents WANT to Talk About Estate Planning & Long Term Care
A study of older parents and adult children finds that the parents are much more willing to discuss estate planning issues than their children are to discuss the parents' estates. The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc., conducted a survey of older parents between the ages of 70 and 79 and adults between the ages of 45 and 65 with at least one living parent. They asked how comfortable respondents were talking about their estates or their parents' estates, how important it is that the parents provide for their heirs, and what type of estate planning documents the parents have.
76% of Older Parents Comfortable Discussing Their Estates
The survey found that the older parents were much more willing to discuss these matters than their children. According to the survey, 76 percent of older parents were comfortable discussing their estates and 71 percent were comfortable discussing their wills compared to the 45 percent and 54 percent of adult children who were comfortable discussing these same matters with their parents. The survey also found that the children underestimated the importance the parents put on providing for them and their children, and that older parents were more likely to have estate planning documents like living wills and durable powers of attorney than the adult children believed.
Acknowledge Why It's Difficult to Talk About Estate Planning
The first thing you can do is acknowledge, to yourself and your parents, WHY it's difficult to have a conversation about their estate, documents and their wishes for long term care and end-of-life matters. These conversations are typically difficult for two main reasons: they involve acknowledging the realities of aging and mortality, and financial details must be shared. But putting off these conversations until it's too late can have catastrophic consequences, both financial and emotional.
Make the Estate Planning Conversation Easier
There are many books written about how to approach the subject, and if you feel more comfortable reading one before bringing it up, we recommend "Can We Talk? A Financial Guide for Baby Boomers Assisting Their Elderly Parents" by Bob Mauterstock. Although it's from 2008, the concepts surrounding a family meeting, working with an estate planning attorney and financial advisor, legal protection, transferring real estate and long term care alternatives are timeless. However, you can likely navigate through the basics without needing a book by just asking about these key areas to get things started:
1.Do You Have Estate Planning Documents We Should Know About? And Where?
A great way to casually lead into a conversation is to ask your parents if they have estate planning documents, such as a will or a trust or power of attorney documents, and where they could be found in the case they're needed. You could even lead into the conversation by talking about the Aretha Franklin story that we posted: "Without an Estate Plan or Will, Aretha Franklin’s Estate Held Up in Probate Court."
2. Have You Named an Executor to Your Estate?
After your parents talk about having a will, a trust, and other estate planning documents and where they are, a natural next question is "who is the executor to your estate?" Parents will often assume that all their children would want to be the executor of their estate but having a child as the executor can often cause rifts between siblings and be a lot of work. When possible, it can be best to name a third party as an executor. Having this conversation could be a relief for your parents and is important for you to know who will be the executor.
3. Do You Have a Plan in the Case You Become Incapacitated?
Another important question is whether or not your parents have a plan in place in the event they cannot plan in their end-of-life decisions because they are incapacitated. Typically, if your parents have planned for the event they have become incapacitated, whether permanently or temporarily, a healthcare power of attorney is a document that would have been completed by their estate planning attorney. Ask your parents where any of these important documents are. It can be difficult to get these documents in place after your mother or father has become incapacitated so knowing these things ahead of time is critical to their wishes being put into place as planned.
Estate Planning & Elder Care Attorney in Avon Lake
Before having the estate planning and long term care planning conversation it could be helpful to review two free guides we have prepared for you:
Understanding Long-Term Care and Medicaid Guide as well as reviewing past posts about power of attorney documents, wills and what happens if a family member becomes incapacitated (links below.) At Joseph L. Motta, estate planning and elder law attorney in Avon Lake, OH, we truly enjoy putting to use our knowledge and expertise to provide you with the best advice on how to protect the ones you love. Call 440-930-2826 to schedule a free consultation.