Five Tips for Initiating Estate Planning Conversations with your Parents

For the vast majority of adult children, discussions about their parent’s estate only happen after a significant injury or illness.  It’s natural to want to avoid a potentially difficult and awkward conversation unless absolutely necessary, but waiting until an event forces your hand means having the conversation under stressful conditions. Being proactive allows you to start communicating under ideal circumstances, at a time that’s comfortable and convenient for you.  Here are some tips on getting those conversations started.  
  1. Find Your ‘Got Me Thinking’ Gateway.  Knowing how to approach end-of-life discussions with parents can be challenging and uncomfortable.  Using a recent life event can provide a convenient lead-in for the conversation. Maybe a friend you know is dealing with a loved one’s declining health?  Perhaps you saw a movie or television show where the contents of a will were discussed?  Feel free to reference this very blog post as a way to open the door.  Whatever got you thinking about your parents’ end-of-life plans, leverage that curiosity as your own conversation starter.
  1. Use “I”, Not “You”, Statements.  In your approach, be mindful of how you state your intentions.  Avoid ‘you statements’  (e.g., “You should be thinking about this”, “You need to prioritize these matters,” etc.). To an aging parent, “you statements” may seem pushy and convey unintended judgment.  Instead, use “I statements” (e.g., “I would feel honored knowing…”, “I want to be better prepared to support you,” etc.).  “I statements” convey humility while acknowledging that the parents are still in charge of their own affairs.
  1. Respect the Role Reversal.  Over time, the traditional parent-child role shifts.  Aging parents may be reluctant to discuss their financial security, or lack thereof, with their adult children. Be understanding if parents feel more comfortable consulting with a neutral third party. Offer praise and support for any willingness to participate and reinforce their engagement in discussions.
  1. Stay Objective with the Objective.  Discussing end-of-life arrangements is often an emotional undertaking for all persons involved. Try to remain objective in your support and avoid asking about any personal inheritance you may receive.  Instead of asking them to disclose specific numbers, ask for general information about what their goals are, where their accounts are maintained, and which individuals they wish to handle their affairs.
  1. Plan for the Sequels.  After that first conversation, no matter how much ground is covered, decide when you’ll revisit the topic again together. Set a date so the expectation can be clear to all those involved.   Follow up on any identified need to update their documentation and reach out to them often to ensure continuity and progress.
  Securing a loved one’s legacy begins with one initial conversation.  Asurest is here to help you embrace that challenge. We are ready to support your efforts in proactively getting a dialogue started and happy to work with you or your parents when you’re ready to move forward.   Disclaimer: This material is intended for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.  Responses to inquiries, whether by email, telephone, or other means, do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create or imply the existence of an attorney-client relationship.
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