As you enter middle age, you begin to raise your own family or pursue the pinnacle of your career — or both. Your thoughts are likely quite focused on your goals, not those of your elderly parents. However, it is important to talk about the issues that will affect them as they grow older, especially from a legal and planning perspective.
You probably feel a responsibility to help your parents navigate the challenges of aging, planning for their mortality and distributing their assets after death. The main issue you are likely to face is not knowing how to broach a conversation around these topics. Here are three questions that can help spark a healthy and constructive discussion. This could lead to proper advance planning and peace of mind for your whole family.
1. Do you have a will?
You should not assume that your parents have a will, regardless of their age. In fact, a 2017 study commissioned by Caring.com and conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International revealed that the majority of Americans do not have a will. Nearly half of the respondents in this survey said the reason they do not have a will is simply that they had not yet gotten around to drawing one up. This highlights the common issue around advance end-of-life planning: Many people put it off until it is too late.
2. Do you have an estate plan?
Estate planning may seem like it is something only for the wealthy, but the truth of the matter is that the people with the smallest amount of money need the most protection. Otherwise, what little they do have could go up in smoke when they pass away.
Additionally, these plans need maintenance. An estate plan is a dynamic document that your elderly parents can draw up and modify as the years go on. This ensures that the strategies keep pace with their wishes and needs.
3. Do you have financial and health care powers of attorney?
If your parents become incapacitated, they will no longer be able to make decisions on their own behalf. This can leave family members scrambling about what to do. Your parents could select a trusted person to operate as a financial power of attorney or a health care proxy — or both. That way, they can make all of the hard choices ahead of time and potentially save everybody a great deal of stress.
Although these questions can be difficult to bring up, they will ultimately help your family face issues that are inevitable as your parents age. Do not wait until it is too late.