Updated: Dec 8, 2022
I'm an only child and both my parents are over the age of 65. I often worry about when and if, I will have to make the tough decisions about my parents health care, finances, and state of their affairs.
I've tried speaking with them about getting their affairs in order, but each time I raise the conversation they simply tell me not to worry, that I will take care of it since I am an attorney.
Unfortunately, this is not exactly an "estate plan." At least not a comprehensive one directly tailored to their needs. I am not alone in my concern. Many of my colleagues, especially in communities of color, often tell me that they are experiencing the same issues with their parents.
It is difficult to get parents to open up to their children about estate planning, but it is a necessary conversation. Many aging parents might even feel that they "don't have anything of value" to pass along to future generations and if so, their children will "take care of it."
In some situations, your parents may already have an estate plan. However, the issue is that they may now be out-of-date since they created those documents many years ago. Out-of-date documents, for example, may no longer reflects your parents' intended wishes and desires.
Neglecting to review your estate planning documents every 2-3 years can result in tragic consequences, where an unintended beneficiary could receive your inheritance.
Understanding why estate planning is a necessity
Estate planning is critical because it ensures that your wishes and concerns about your estate will be addressed through legal documentation. It also means that you have named an agent to make your financial and healthcare decisions, if you are temporarily or permanently, mentally or physically, incapacitated.
Should something happen to you, your family will be grieving, and may not be in the proper emotional state to make important decisions about you or your estate. Therefore, it is critical that you consult with an attorney to do the "hard work" now, processing through all of the emotions that come up while creating an estate plan, so that you do not pass along the burden of "figuring it out" later.
So, how do you encourage your aging parents to create an estate plan?
First, TELL - them that you are in the process of working with an attorney on your own estate plan.
A great way to initiate the conversation about estate planning with your parents is to share with them that you're currently working with an attorney on your estate plan and that the attorney suggests that you discuss your wishes and desires with your close family members. This is a great way to break the ice to such a grave conversation. By demonstrating that you are "practicing what you preach" your aging parents will likely be more willing to discuss their intentions for creating their own estate plan.
Second, ASK - whether they have taken the necessary steps to get their affairs in order. Meet your parents where they are at. Don't judge them for not already having done estate plan, rather keep an open mind and ask them how you can help get them to a good place with their estate planning.
Keep in mind that this topic may be difficult to discuss. The conversations that arise around estate planning needs can become emotional. Make sure that you are keeping an open mind and that you are doing more listening, instead than talking about why you feel they need an estate plan.
Remember, estate planning is not just about planning for end-of-life, it is also about preparing for temporary or permanent disability and making health care decisions. It is important to discuss with your parents what they would want if they experienced dementia, Alzheimer's or a similar health issue.
Another way to lead into the conversation is to discuss a recent medical event of a friend or family member. Listen to their responses about what they would like to happen if they were ever in that type of situation. Reassure them that you want to honor their wishes if they were ever in a similar situation as the friend or family member that you are discussing.
Third, SHOW- them how they can get started today working with an attorney to create or update their estate plan. You can mention to your parents that you have recently learned that little or no planning can lead to unnecessary stress and family conflict, and that you would like to help them avoid this problem.
NOW IS A GOOD A TIME TO HAVE THE "GET YOUR AFFAIRS IN ORDER" DISCUSSION WITH YOUR FAMILY MEMBERS
Talking with your loved ones in a private, intimate setting with an estate-planning professional will help keep your family on track and identify legal considerations for various family circumstances. With the proper planning, you can work with your parents to preserve your family's legacy for future generations to come.
Contact the Law Office of Crystal M. Richardson PLLC today for help starting the conversation with your parents, (336) 283-5108.