How to Talk to Your Parents About Estate Planning?

Estate Planning is a difficult subject to broach. Aging, mortality, and financial matters are talking points often met with a certain degree of apprehension, no matter how old you are. This conversation can be particularly difficult to approach with your parents, who might feel uncomfortable discussing these matters with their children and could lead to them closing up and avoiding the subject altogether.

While it may seem a daunting task, it’s important to have these conversations with your parents early to avoid potential future conflict and family disputes. In this blog, we’ll show you some tips on how to approach this sensitive topic and offer guidance on what to cover during the conversation.

Why is This Conversation Important?

Perhaps you already have an Estate Plan in place. And perhaps you have no questions regarding your family’s future once you’re gone. However, it’s crucial to know what role you play in your parents’ plan, going beyond just inheritance matters.

If you’ve been named as the executor of your parent’s estate, for example, you’ll need to know where to access the documents to manage those assets after their passing. Maintaining constant communication about these things will not only make it easy for you in the future to fulfill their wishes, but it will also gradually make them feel less anxious about this topic. 

Not having these conversations can lead to conflict within the family regarding how much of the inheritance is given to whom. Also important to note: Having an Estate Plan is not the only step, as people can also contest it if they disagree or are surprised by what is in the plan. This is why parents need to announce their intentions as well as their reasoning to the family. The only way they’ll be comfortable doing that is if they’re first comfortable with the topic as a whole.

Tips to Have Your Parents Open Up About Estate Planning

One of the things you can do is to be proactive about your own Estate Plan. If your parents can see you doing this, they may gradually open up to discussing their own. You can share with them why you feel the responsibility to do this for your kids and grandkids, allowing them to see why they should as well.

The thing not to do is scare them into making an Estate Plan by emphasizing the ramifications of not having one. Instead, focus on the positives. Focus on how it is another way to care for and love those close to you, that it will allow them control over how their legacy continues and what they are leaving behind. It’s easy to hear “Estate Plan” and think the worst, so make sure to acknowledge that. Make sure they know this isn’t an easy conversation for anyone, but it’s an important one.

Being positive, however, doesn’t mean sugarcoating. Don’t underestimate the emotional weight of the conversation. Step into their shoes, empathize with them and tell them you know they must be feeling nervous or anxious talking about this. Let them share their feelings and discuss those first, before getting to the specifics.

When communicating, especially with parents who are very elderly, you must validate their values and wishes and assure them they have been heard. Let them know you understand their reasoning and everything they are saying will be done.

Include your siblings so everyone is part of the conversation, and make sure everyone is on the same page. Parents often avoid having this conversation because they think it will lead to infighting within the family, not realizing that not having the conversation will increase the chances of infighting eventually. So having all of the family involved and ready to listen and accept their parents’ wishes is very important.

Finally, it’s important to know what you should discuss. Learn what estate planning, if any, your parents have already done. Ask them if they have assigned executors or trustees. If they had established a trust when you and your siblings were children, the rules for them may have changed now that you are adults. If they have had a second or third marriage, they should add instructions specific to that as well. All children should understand their role in the Estate Plan and know why they have that responsibility. Family businesses, power of attorney in healthcare, and digital assets are all things that should be discussed.

We know this may all feel overwhelming, but rest assured that’s why we are here to help you through helping your parents.

Estate Planning is for the Entire Family

So, if you’re confused about how to discuss Estate Planning with your parents, we hope the tips we have provided can help. Acknowledge the difficult nature of the conversation, allow them to see you plan your estate, and focus on the positives and how they can help their family. Let them know that this is not something they have to do alone and is their burden to bear. It’s for the entire family, and it’s a way of showing they care. 

At the end of the day, remember that the only way to have difficult conversations is to have them. You can prepare and strategize, but it may still be a difficult conversation, and that’s okay. It’s an important one, and your parents, and all their loved ones, will be better off from having it.