All of us experience aging family members at some time in our lives and there is no good time to speak with them about their estate plan. Estate planning is often a difficult topic for all of us to broach, as it brings the unpleasant topics of aging and death to the kitchen table. Things are always easier when you’ve been through them personally, so if you haven’t done your estate plan yet, there’s no better time than today. In fact, the easiest way to bring up the conversation is by making them part of your estate planning checklist. If you discuss with them and look to them for guidance with your plan, you will intrigue them to want to prepare their own estate plan as well. Invite them to the initial appointment with the estate planning attorney. Allow them to be an active part of your planning. There’s no doubt that by the end of the discussion, they will recognize the need for their own plan.
If you missed the boat on that or haven’t left the shore yet, here are a few tips to help you start the conversation.
- Be sensitive to your family members’ feelings.
- Put yourself in their shoes, and keep in mind that few people are eager to dwell on the subject of their own death.
- Talk about the need to plan for an illness and to provide instructions in the event they become too ill to communicate with doctors or handle financial matters for themselves.
- Bring up the fact that healthcare power of attorneys are inexpensive and much quicker to execute compared to the very pricey and time consuming guardianship appointments through the court.
- Next discuss with them the fact that as they get older, they may need someone to assist with helping them with their bills. (NOTE: Don’t say help them spend their money as that will be taken negatively in most cases—-everyone wants help with bills!)
- The conversation can then naturally progress to the importance of having an estate plan that will enable their assets to be transferred in the way that they wish, provide for the care of any dependents or pets, and minimize any taxes, court costs, and legal fees.
- Communicate that you are not trying to control their decisions, but only want to ensure that their own wishes regarding their medical care and their property are known—and that all their instructions are in writing to guarantee they are carried out.
- When dealing with your aging parents, try to include any siblings in the discussion to avoid giving the impression that you are trying to influence or control your loved one’s choices.
- You and your siblings should emphasize to your parents that none of you are asking about what you will inherit, but just want to make sure that their wishes are carried out if they become ill or pass away.
The most important tip? Consult an experienced estate planning attorney. Many lawyers can draft a will (that isn’t very different than what you can find online for free), but very few attorneys actually practice estate planning. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you and your family members create an estate plan tailored to meet each of your unique needs and carry out your wishes—or help you update a pre-existing estate plan. We can provide each family member with guidance and information about the options available to them. We can help each of you put a plan in place that will prevent unnecessary stress, legal expenses and taxes, uneven inheritances, disputes between family members, and delays in passing life savings on to loved ones. In addition, it will provide you and your family members with the peace of mind that comes with knowing there are plans in place for your care if any of you become ill and that your wishes will be honored once you pass away.