As your parents get older, you probably will start thinking about their future and how well they have planned for aging. One conversation that may seem daunting to have with them is whether they have a comprehensive estate plan or if they still need to complete a will.
Despite any reservations you have about approaching this subject, it’s an important one. About 50% of Americans do not have a will. Even more haven’t designated a durable power of attorney, a health care proxy or have a living will. Without these, your parents won’t be able to control how their assets are divided when they pass away, and they may be unprepared for if they become incapacitated or suffer a sudden life-threatening illness.
It’s much harder to face these issues when a sudden death, accident or illness changes everyone’s perspective. That’s why it’s better to have these conversations now. So, here are five tips on how you can start talking about estate planning with your parents:
- Be transparent and open about the conversation. Invite your siblings to be present so you all have a better idea of what your parents’ wishes are and what estate planning documents they still need to complete.
- Listen without judgement. Your goal is to understand their wishes better, no to try to convince them of how you would handle these decisions.
- Know that the first conversation will be part of an ongoing one. As your parents age, their wishes may change. And when one passes away, the other may change his or her mind about how they will handle end-of-life decisions or what they want to do with their assets.
- Be prepared to follow up with them. Make sure that they did indeed meet with an attorney to draft a full estate plan (a will, a power of attorney and a health care proxy at minimum) if they don’t have one. Also, check in to see if they met with a financial adviser about how they can maximize any savings they have for future care costs or how to avoid losing all of it to nursing care costs.
- Make sure you know where their estate planning documents are and how to access them. If they are in a safe, you need to know where the keys to it are. Also, encourage your parents to keep a list of any electronic-based subscription services they have and their passwords to access those accounts or their financial accounts. You will need to know all this information if one of your parents passes away suddenly.
No matter what, emphasize with your parents that you care about them and want them to have peace of mind about their future. That’s why they shouldn’t delay in completing a comprehensive estate plan.