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Encouraging Elderly Parents to Engage in Estate Planning: A Guide for Adult Children

Posted by Scott Lynett, Esq. | Apr 26, 2024 | 0 Comments

As an estate planning attorney, I often encounter adult children faced with the delicate task of discussing estate planning with their elderly parents. This conversation can be challenging, but it is crucial for ensuring that the wishes of your parents are honored and that their legacy is protected. Here, I will explore why these discussions can be difficult and offer a strategy that may help ease the process.


Understanding the Hesitation


Many elderly parents may be reluctant to discuss their estate plans for various reasons. First, the conversation inherently involves facing one's own mortality, which can be uncomfortable. Additionally, revisiting financial details and decisions about asset distribution can evoke emotional stress, particularly if there are unresolved family dynamics.


It's also possible that your parents have an outdated estate plan that no longer reflects their current wishes or life circumstances, such as new grandchildren, marriages, or the purchase of property. They may not realize the implications of having an outdated will or trust, including potential legal disputes or unintended asset distribution.


The Role of the Adult Child


As an adult child, initiating this conversation can feel like you are overstepping or intruding into private matters. However, it is important to approach the topic with sensitivity and understanding. Here's how having your own estate plan can serve as a bridge in this conversation:


1. Lead by Example: Having your own estate plan not only prepares you for the future but also demonstrates to your parents the importance and benefits of having these arrangements in place. By discussing your own planning process, you can naturally segue into a conversation about their plans without making them feel singled out.


2. Educational Opportunity: Use your experience to inform your parents about the estate planning process. You can explain the steps you took, the decisions involved, and how you felt more secure after completing your plan. This can demystify the process for them and reduce any anxiety they might feel.


3. Mutual Benefits: Highlight how estate planning is mutually beneficial. It not only ensures that their wishes are respected but also protects you and your siblings from potential legal complications or conflicts after they are gone. This approach underscores the idea that estate planning is a final act of caring and responsibility towards the family.


Starting the Conversation


When you decide to broach the subject, choose a comfortable and private setting. It's important to be direct yet gentle. You might start by sharing your own estate planning experience, then transition into asking about their current plan and whether it reflects their wishes accurately.


Express your understanding of the sensitivity of the topic and reassure them of your intentions:


"I recently updated my estate plan, and it made me think about whether you've had the chance to review yours. I found the process really valuable and it gave me peace of mind. Maybe we could review yours together? I'd love to help make sure everything is up-to-date and reflects your wishes."


Encouraging Professional Guidance


Recommend that they consult with an estate planning attorney who can offer professional advice and ensure that all legal documents are correctly prepared and executed. This not only helps in creating a comprehensive plan but also in navigating any complex family dynamics or financial situations.


In conclusion, while the conversation about estate planning with elderly parents can be tough, it is a necessary one for ensuring peace of mind and the smooth transition of their legacy. By preparing your own estate plan first and approaching the topic with empathy and understanding, you can set a positive example and make the discussion less daunting for everyone involved.


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