How Do I Start the Estate Planning Conversation With My Parents?
It’s a tale as old as time, as some parents, or older relatives, can be reluctant to discuss topics around death, inheritance, and estate planning. Or, perhaps younger relatives want to avoid the conversation because it makes them sad. We understand these conversations can be uncomfortable, but they’re of the utmost importance. While having a trusted estate planning attorney in your corner is helpful, below are our tips on starting this conversation at home with your loved ones. When you’re ready, an estate planning lawyer from a law firm like McCarthy Law, LLC is able to help.
The Best Time To Start Was Yesterday; The Next Best Time Is Today
It can be tricky to start these conversations, but the sooner they happen, the better for everyone involved. Even if your older relatives are healthy, unexpected situations arise. It’s always better to have these discussions when everyone is both physically and mentally healthy rather than scrambling to make arrangements in response to a situation that may become more emotionally charged. Discussing estate plans, after death wishes, and other details of this nature can also alleviate some of the difficult emotions when someone does pass. When the plan is decided and communicated, it takes a lot of stress off of the shoulders of those who survive the parent or loved one.
Acknowledge The Emotions
Estate planning lawyers understand that thinking about death or disability, and discussing a loved one’s future passing is very emotional and can be uncomfortable. Acknowledge aloud that thinking about it makes you sad, but then focus on the actual goal of estate planning is to make things easier for anyone who survives your parents, and to provide the peace of mind that their wishes and desires will be carried out without delay. They may have specific ideas of how they want their funeral to look, or to whom they want their property to go. Remind them that the best way to ensure these wishes are carried out to their specifications is to create an estate plan.
Start Small And Take Time
If you’re starting these conversations early enough, you will have time to consider the many options available such as trusts, creating joint ownerships, power of attorney documents, or for your parents to start gifting their assets to beneficiaries while they’re still living. While we don’t recommend delaying too long, taking it step-by-step can be a practical approach. An attorney can be extremely helpful in advising what ought to be decided and in what order, so you can break the conversations up into digestible chunks.
This isn’t a conversation that should initially happen in a rush, in passing, or at a crowded event. Instead, set a time to grab a cup of coffee, or sit down for a meal together, ideally somewhere comfortable where everyone can be at ease. Try to limit distractions, like your phone notifications, so that you can listen and understand what they’re sharing with you.
Know It May Happen More Than Once
Family situations, assets, and desires can change over time. This conversation is not one-and-done; in fact, you may have had a handful of conversations about these topics over the years or decades. There’s nothing wrong with this! It’s a good idea to revisit any estate plan regularly to confirm that it still aligns with your loved one’s goals.
Did you bring up having this chat with your folks, and they balked at the idea? If they react strongly, it’s not a bad idea to take a step back and approach the topic again at a later time. If you’ve planted the seed then they might need some time to mull it over before they’re ready to have the conversation openly. If they’re still resistant, provide them some information on processes like probate, or what can happen if they don’t create a solid estate plan. This may inspire them to start considering their options.
There is no easy way to start these conversations as they can be difficult and emotional. Together, you and your older relatives or parents can create a plan that both acknowledges and supports their emotions while also ensuring their wishes are followed. Then their surviving relatives aren’t stuck in a tricky situation after they pass. If you’re looking for more guidance, don’t hesitate to reach out to an estate planning lawyer.