Let’s start with this idea: maybe your parents are going to leave you a generous bequest as part of their estate plan. Do you know this for a fact, or is it wishful thinking? The only way to know, advises a recent article from Yahoo! Finance titled “How To Talk to Your Parents About Their Estate (Without Making It Awkward),” is to have a conversation, or a series of conversations. It’s been Beck & Lenox Estate Planning & Elder Law’s experience that an estate planning conversation with aging parents can be very uncomfortable.
No matter how you approach it, this is a sensitive issue. How do you avoid appearing greedy or selfish? There is actually a lot more to know beyond the inheritance issue. You need to know how to ensure that your parents’ wishes are carried out while they are living, as well as after their deaths.
It will be helpful to be aware that the prospective inheritance amount may change over the course of your parents’ remaining lives. You also don’t want your parents thinking that you consider yourself entitled in any way to the assets they have built over the course of their lives. Some parents are very private and may not want to discuss their money situation with you.
Instead, an estate planning conversation with aging parents could start with you explaining that you want to be able to follow their instructions. You might reference an article or blog post that you have read about the importance of estate planning. You can also talk about your own estate plan, explaining that you have created an estate plan to protect your children and family members and to be sure that your instructions are followed.
Don’t be afraid to acknowledge how difficult this conversation is for you. Reassure them that you are not looking forward to their demise, but you have concerns about how things will work out when the time does come.
Depending upon your family dynamics, holidays may be a good time to address estate planning. This provides an opportunity for all family members to be included and for concerns and plans to be shared among involved siblings.
This does not mean discussing inheritances at the dinner table. Focus on what your parents’ wishes are and include a conversation about what values they would like to pass on to the next generation. If there are family histories or stories to share, this is also part of your inheritance.
Regardless of when or how you approach the topic, you do want to be sure your parents have a plan in place, so there is a path for whoever will be taking care of them and their assets. Ask if they have these key legal documents:
- A Last Will, also known as a Last Will and Testament
- A Power of Attorney to designate someone to make financial and legal decisions, if they are not able to do so for themselves.
- A Living Will or Power of Attorney for healthcare that will designate someone who can make healthcare decisions and address end of life care for them.
Ask where your parents keep these documents, and how you can find them when the time comes. Are they in your father’s night table, or in a lockbox in the attic? If they have a financial advisor or estate planning attorney, who is that person? You’ll need to be able to access the documents and speak with their estate planning attorney. Per Beck & Lenox, if you are the trustee or agent for your parents, it would be ideal for you to have a copy of these documents.
For more information on Powers of Attorney documents, here is a link to that section of our website, https://beckelderlaw.com/estate-planning/power-of-attorney/ .
These estate planning conversations with aging parents, even if they are awkward, will help all of you as your parents, and you, move through the coming stages of life.
Reference: Yahoo! Finance (March 25, 2021) “How To Talk to Your Parents About Their Estate (Without Making It Awkward)”