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How to Discuss Estate Planning with your Parents

Do you know your parents’ last wishes? Here are 5 tips for initiating the often difficult estate planning conversation with your parents.

Nobody enjoys awkward or uncomfortable conversations, especially if the discussion revolves around what happens after your parents die.

For the vast majority of adult children, discussions about your parent’s estate only happen after significant injury or illness occurs, if at all. Avoiding a potentially difficult and awkward conversation unless absolutely necessary is natural, but waiting until an event forces your hand means having the conversation under stressful conditions which isn’t ideal. What’s worse, having the conversation after an event that limits their mental capacity such as a stroke means an added layer of complexity and risk. Being proactive in your estate planning discussion with your parents allows you to initiate the conversation under smoother, more convenient circumstances. 

Here are some tips from an estate planning expert on getting those conversations started.

5 Tips for Discussing Estate Planning With Your Parents

  1. Start with a compelling lead-in to the conversation. Approaching end-of-life discussions with parents can be challenging and uncomfortable. However, clients often report that just starting the conversation is the hardest part.  Begin the discussion using your got-me-thinking gateway—or, in other words, a sequence of thoughts or an event that spurred you to have the discussion with them. This could be a recent life event such as a friend dealing with declining health. Perhaps you saw a movie or television show where the contents of a will were discussed and it made you consider your family’s personal situation and want them to feel confident and prepared. You could even reference this very blog post as a way to open the door to the estate planning discussion. Whatever got you thinking about your parents’ end-of-life plans in the first place, leverage that curiosity as your own conversation starter. 
  2. Use “I”, not “you”, statements.  It is not uncommon for parents to react defensively or shut down altogether when the topic of estate planning is broached. After all, the idea of discussing what happens after you die isn’t a comfortable subject for most people. In your approach, be mindful of how you state your intentions.  Avoid ‘you’ statements like, “You should be thinking about this”, or “You need to prioritize these matters.” Statements crafted this way may seem pushy and convey unintended judgment that prevents a productive discussion from ensuring.  Instead, use “I” statements like, “I would feel honored knowing…” or “I want to be better prepared to support you.”. “I” statements convey humility while acknowledging that the parents are still in charge of their own affairs, making them more apt to continue the discussion and collaborate to execute a plan.
  3. 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, since, after all, the goal is to get their affairs in order. Offer praise and support for any willingness to participate and reinforce their engagement in discussions.
  4. Try to stay objective. Discussing end-of-life arrangements is often an emotional undertaking for all 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 who their creditors are, where their accounts are kept, and which individuals they wish to handle their affairs.
  5. Plan for follow-up conversations. 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 and next steps are 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. An estate planning professional can help you embrace that challenge and support your efforts in proactively getting a dialogue started with those you love most.

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The process of getting a legitimate will in place for you and your family can be overwhelming, confusing, and costly, but it doesn’t have to be! At Asurest, we offer simple, affordable solutions for your legal needs and make the process easy by coming to you for the conversation—meeting you in your home or, if you prefer, over Zoom or telephone.

Serving clients throughout Virginia, our experienced and trustworthy professionals simplify the process using clear, understandable language free of legal jargon and provide flat-rate packages, so you’re never surprised by the bill. Contact us today and rest assured that your affairs are in order and your loved ones are protected.

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.

Written By
Matthew Reinaker
January 23, 2023
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