It’s not easy.
And the usual response I hear is that nobody wants to talk about such a morbid topic. Remember though that estate planning isn’t only about post-mortem affairs. Planning for disability or other complications before death are all part of the estate planning process. Statistically, you and everyone else on this planet will become significantly disabled or incapacitated, long before you die.
Talking to your aging parents about estate planning summons up all kinds of emotions:
From the adult child’s perspective:
- If dad needs to go to a nursing home, will we have to liquidate all of his assets to pay for it?
- What if mom is unable to make an emergency medical decision? Am I automatically the person responsible?
- Do I have authority to sell her house to pay for expenses?
- What if dad has a ton of debt I don’t know about and there isn’t enough to cover his creditors?
- What happens with the reverse mortgage on the home after grandma dies?
- How do I access mom’s safe deposit box in an emergency?
- Alzheimer’s runs in the family. Who gets to make dad’s financial decisions if he suffers from memory loss?
From the aging parents perspective:
- Why do I need a Will? I already told my kids they get everything anyway.
- If I go to a nursing home, Medicare will probably pick up the tab because I’m old enough. (false)
- My husband and I did a Will in the 80’s. It will probably get the job done.
- I don’t want my kids to have any problems dealing with my estate after I die. I’ll just give everything away while I’m alive.
- My wife has her own kids but I’m sure she’ll see to it that my kids are provided for after I die.
There are so many questions and concerns that many people clam up and avoid estate planning altogether. I’d rather see everyone go out and get a LegalZoom package then have nothing at all.
How to Bring Up Estate Planning Over Brunch
(Meal setting optional.)
Talk about your own plans. Your aging parents are likely to also be grandparents. Having a discussion with you about your own estate planning thought process might gracefully open the door to a conversation about your parents’ plans. Here are some conversation starters:
Dad, do you think you could serve as a backup guardian to my kids if I were gone?
Mom, I need to name a health care surrogate in case I’m in a car accident and can’t make a medical decision for myself. Do you mind if I name you as an alternate? Who did you pick?
Dad, I just did a Durable Power of Attorney so nobody has to spend thousands in guardianship fees if I become suddenly mentally incapacitated. Have you prepared one yet?
I’m sure you can think of a thousand ways to dip your toe in the water.
Whatever your approach, just do it. It’s not particularly important that you know every last detail about their estate planning, but it’s a huge relief to know that they’ve actually taken steps towards the planning itself.
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