How to Talk to Your Parents About Estate Planning

If there is one thing certain about life, it is that it ends, and many times unexpectedly. Anticipating the death of parents, those who raised you and prepared you for this life can be very emotionally challenging. It is difficult to confront the fact that one day your parents’ time will come. For this reason, it is common for both parents and their children to avoid discussing estate planning. But discussing estate planning is important to ensure that the estate will be managed appropriately and the right heirs will have rights to the estate after one’s parents are gone. This topic’s conversation isn’t an easy one by any means, but one of great importance. 

Many people fail to have this conversation with their loved ones for various reasons due to lack of knowledge, avoidance, or worrying  about family members’ reactions. But the cost of avoiding it can be monumental and negatively affect the family. The children may have unending feuds amongst themselves especially if they do not know what their parents’ wishes were. After all, It is quite likely that the children, after their parents’ deaths, will make decisions from those their parents would have made. 

Therefore, it is vital to have “the talk” with your parents as adults before they are gone. Here are a few tips on how to approach this topic.

Be mindful about the timing

Do not have this difficult conversation with your parents when they are sick. Don’t wait till they are too old either. While it is a difficult topic to discuss, be very mindful of the timing. Oftentimes, the parents may have some sort of idea about estate planning but procrastinate on discussing it with their children. There is nothing wrong with initiating it even if you do not benefit the most from it. One may seem greedy and rude if they insist on discussing this topic with their ill or aged parents. 

Be very patient

Your parents may have not given this topic any thought so you must be patient with them especially during the very first conversation. They may even feel offended but it is okay to react that way. However, you can suggest discussing this topic in detail after they have processed their thoughts and made up their mind about how inheritances will be divided.

Include your siblings

If you are not an only child, it is a good idea to include your siblings in the conversation. A good way to do that is to give a heads up to all of them so they can be mentally and emotionally prepared when attending this discussion. They may write down their concerns and questions for the discussion. It may take a few sittings to get onto the same page with them. 

If one does not include their siblings in these conversations, it can lead to tension and conflicts in the future. If the conflicts are not resolved, litigation can follow which oftentimes can result in more money spent on attorneys to come to an agreement than the money even being inherited. 

Take notes 

Take notes during the discussion and send a copy to all attendees so if anyone may have doubts later on, the family can refer to the notes. This may seem trivial, but it can end up being very beneficial later on. For a more modern approach, your family may agree on recording the decision. The essence of this step is to have a record to refer back to later on. 

Don’t put pressure on your parents 

The idea of estate planning and death can be daunting for most people. Your parents may not be ready to make an estate plan just yet so it is important to not pressure them. Just putting this idea in their mind and letting them know that you are open to a conversation when they are ready is more than enough most times. 

Empathize with your parents

This conversation may not only be difficult for you but can also be for your parents. Most people dislike talking about death. You must acknowledge that your parents spent their lifetime making the estate they own. It can be difficult to imagine it divided amongst their children so empathize with your parents. An easy way to do so can be to think about how you would feel if you were the subject of the conversation. Would you be anxious thinking and openly talking about your death? This approach will help invite. compassion and empathy into the conversation.

Listen to their wishes with patience

It isn’t your job to tell your parents how to think or feel. Allow them the freedom of making decisions based on their wishes. You may express any concerns with them with respect but they do not have to abide by your wishes. This conversation may bring up a lot of unpleasant feelings so allow them to express their feelings without any judgement.

Consult an attorney

An attorney specializes in estate planning along with drawing up legal documents. They can help mediate the conversation and even suggest topics to cover during the conversation. The attorney may often even help to provide the role of a family therapist during this difficult conversation. 

Practice starting this conversation 

If you struggle with starting this conversation, prepare an opening statement and you may even ask your family members to do the same to get the conversation started. Despite being a difficult one, your family will be eternally grateful to you for addressing the topic in a timely and planned manner.

Calculate funeral costs in your city or zipcode.