It is very hard to open the conversation around the importance of estate planning with your elderly parents, but it is also a crucial conversation that you need to have to know what planning has or has not yet been done. It is essential for every family to have some line of communication over these critical issues.
Unless you are certain because you have seen it directly that your parents have an up to date will and necessary documents in place in the event they were to pass, you should not assume that these issues have been handled. Fewer than half of Americans have a will, according to biannual surveys. This could add to additional stress and confusion for your loved ones and can also have financial repercussions for all of the children in the estate.
One of the most important things you can do to open this door is to plan what you can. Make a list of questions and topics and then inform your parents that you hope to talk about these important issues with them.
Choose a private venue where everyone will feel comfortable and set a time and date to do it. Always be respectful with your language and make sure that you take time to step back and reflect if the situation becomes uncomfortable. You have to remember that many parents do not feel good about talking over these subjects and might also feel that you are calling them out for failing to do any planning already.
It’s important to be as sensitive as possible as you broach these difficult issues. You should not show up to their door during this initial conversation with an expectation that everything will be accomplished. You might need the support of an estate planning lawyer to help you get there.