How to Talk to Your Aging Parents About Estate Planning

talking about estate planning with aging parentsEstate planning can be a heavy, complex topic for everyone involved, especially if the discussion is focused on your aging parents. Nevertheless, it is important to bring this topic up to ensure your parents’ wishes are honored after their passing or if they become incapacitated during their lifetime.

Here are five ways to approach estate planning with your elderly parents and encourage them to get their affairs in order, regardless of their current circumstances or health.

1. Understand what they need

To help your parents throughout the estate planning process, it’s important to familiarize yourself with what goes into estate planning. A comprehensive estate plan should cover your financial plans, indicate who will make medical decisions, and outline asset division or trusts for inheritors. Encourage your parents to make a Will and power of attorney (financial POA and medical POA) as soon as possible.

Along with educating yourself, consider your parents’ current capacity to navigate estate planning. If they need assistance with drafting a Will or understanding specific terms and rules, seek professional help from a legal expert to guide them through the process.

2. Ask what they’ve already done

Check in with your parents to see what steps in the process they may have already taken. Are they working with an estate planner? Have they already set up a Will? Do they have powers of attorney in place?

Ask your parents to share any important documents or information with you to minimize any mystery or confusion in the case of an emergency. For instance, if something happens to your parents and you don’t know where their documents are, this could cause a major headache for you.

Your parents may have completed or thought about their estate plan, net-worth statement, powers of attorney, or their need for a trust. Bring these topics up with them periodically so you’re up-to-date on their estate planning progress and understand where they may need more support.

3. Discuss their care preferences

Estate planning isn’t just about who gets what when a loved one passes away; it’s also an opportunity for your parents to make decisions in writing. Estate planning allows for your parents to preemptively decide how or where they want to be cared for as they age or if their health fails. Having those choices detailed in a properly drafted medical power of attorney protects their wishes while minimizing conflict among surviving loved ones.

4. Work through contested assets together

If you have siblings or multiple inheritors, bring everyone into the discussion so it’s easier for the family to see and understand your parents’ wishes, which minimizes arguments later. If one person is making all the decisions and everyone else is left in the dark, conflict can easily escalate.

Working with an estate planning lawyer is a great way for all family members to remain on equal footing while ensuring that all the necessary tasks and paperwork are completed. An estate planning lawyer can also guide you through the whole process as well as help you and your parents understand any confusing jargon along the way.

5. Balance empathy and responsibility

As you work through estate planning with your parents, you want them to feel as in control and comfortable as possible. Schedule estate planning discussions ahead of time so they won’t be caught off guard by the topic, and don’t force the conversation when they need a break or get upset. 

Handling estate planning for a parent can be difficult or uncomfortable, but taking these steps can help you help them complete this important task before they become incapacitated or pass away. If your Virginia-based family is in need of estate planning assistance, schedule your free consultation with the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor.