It can be uncomfortable to talk to a parent about what will happen when they are gone. However, if a parent becomes incapacitated or passes away before you have these discussions, you could be dealing with unanswered questions, a complicated legal process and conflicts with your family.

Thus, talking to your parents about their estate plans sooner, rather than later, can be crucial. The following are suggestions for how to approach the conversation.

Choose the right time and place

Find a time and place when you can comfortably discuss sensitive topics. You could have these conversations on the phone or in person; just consider elements like privacy, access to pertinent information and the ability to be honest.

Choose a time when neither of you is stressed or rushed. And select a setting that is free from distractions. You want to have an honest, open discussion and the opportunity to ask and answer questions.

Finding the right tone

Talking about an estate plan should not mean badgering parents about what you will receive when they die. You don’t want them to feel angry or threatened, and using the wrong tone can shut down any further discussions.

To avoid this, approach the conversation with compassion and understanding. It can be casual and open-ended or more structured, depending on your parent. Avoid making judgments or disapproving comments.

Addressing the right topics

Rather than discuss what you might get out of their estate plans, talk about what they want and what plans they have to preserve those wishes. Consider referencing a list like this. If a parent does not have an estate plan, you could offer to help them connect with an attorney.

You will also want to discuss what expectations or hopes they have for you. Do they want you to take care of them if they are unable to care for themselves? Will you be the person to make medical or financial decisions for them? If they want you to serve as an executor, how would they like you to do that? Understanding these elements can make it easier for you to interpret and carry out their wishes.

Utilizing these suggestions can help make a potentially difficult – but crucial – discussion a little easier.