When it comes to your parents, you’ve probably always been able to talk to them about anything. Yet, as you find yourself wanting to have a conversation about estate planning, you may be finding it to be harder than you anticipated. A topic often put off far too long, estate planning is a critical component of any family’s financial strategy. If you need some tips on how to talk to your parents about estate planning, here are some details to keep in mind.
Don’t Put Off the Conversation
Unfortunately, many families put off having an estate planning conversation until it’s too late. While you don’t want to think about it, the fact is the unexpected can always happen. Should your parents pass away prior to having an estate plan in place, this can leave you and members of your family with tremendous amounts of uncertainty, not to mention set the stage for legal battles that could tear at the very fabric of your family. In short, now is the best time to have an estate planning conversation with your parents.
Plan the Conversation
By planning the conversation beforehand, you can be sure you and your parents cover the most important topics associated with estate planning. One topic that should be discussed early on will be your parent’s finances and who will be in charge of them should they die or become incapacitated. Since you and your parents will have plenty of questions that need to be answered, it may be best for you to schedule a meeting with a trusted and knowledgeable professional who has experience in estate planning matters.
Seek Their Input
When parents start having estate planning conversations, they sometimes feel as if their children or other family members are trying to take total control over their lives. To avoid this scenario, always seek out as much input from your parents from the very beginning of your conversations. By doing so, you can reassure your parents that your goal is to make sure their final wishes will be carried out in the manner they prefer. Whether it is writing a will, deciding who will make healthcare decisions, or working out the details associated with Power of Attorney, letting your parents tell you what they have in mind will make talking about estate planning much easier for everyone.
Involve the Whole Family
Any conversations you have with your parents about estate planning should always involve any and all family members who will be involved in the process. This will help to avoid any misunderstandings, let everyone have a say in various matters, and give your parents the chance to express their ideas to everyone at once. If possible, you may want to have your CPA included in this meeting, since this will let everyone have the chance to get their questions answered immediately.
Help Your Parents Find an Estate Planner
Chances are when you begin talking to your parents about estate planning, they will tell you they have given little thought to the matter, much less made arrangements to work with an estate planner. If this is the case with your parents, offer to help them find an estate planner they can completely trust to help them make the best decisions each step of the way. Remember that when doing estate planning, you will need not only an attorney who has experience in this area, but also a CPA who helps clients with managing tax responsibilities on a regular basis. By helping your parents get connected with an estate planner they can trust, you will make the process much less daunting to them and your other family members.
Don’t Catch Your Parents Off-Guard
Always pick a good time to initiate your estate planning conversation with your parents. For example, try to do so at a time when everyone is relaxed and has the time needed to discuss such an important matter. If you want, you can even bring up a recent article you read in a magazine, online, or in a newspaper as a way of beginning the conversation. In some cases, your parents may have read the same article, which will be a great springboard into having a serious talk about their own estate plans. Should you try to bring up the subject abruptly or make your parents feel as if you are forcing them to talk about this sensitive topic when they are not ready or prepared to do so, it will only make arriving at a solution that much more difficult.
Be a Good Listener
As you begin a conversation with your parents about estate planning, you may have a tendency to talk too much and dominate the conversation. If this happens, your parents may assume you want to handle each and every detail, and may in fact already have things planned out in your own mind. Instead of letting this happen, take time to be an active listener while your parents are expressing their thoughts and feelings about the topic. If you do this, your parents will be put at ease and made to feel as if they still have control over their estate plan, which is exactly how it should be as this process moves forward.
Finally, you may need to be patient with your parents as you move through the estate planning process. In fact, don’t be surprised if you wind up having multiple conversations about the topic before all the details are finally in place, which will include meeting with a CPA, attorney and other professionals as well. Since you know your parents want only the best for you and your other family members, a little bit of patience during these talks will go a long way in making this process much easier.
If you keep these tips in mind when talking to your parents about estate planning, your family will be able to arrive at an estate plan that meets everyone’s needs.