It’s not easy to watch your parents age, and asking about their estate plans isn’t very comfortable to do – but there are some conversations that are important to have if you want to make sure that your parent’s wishes are followed and your family doesn’t fracture from conflicts during a time of grief.
These are a few tips concerning how to approach the topic with sensitivity and respect.
Choose your time and place carefully
This isn’t a topic to bring up on the fly – and you definitely don’t want to broach the subject at Sunday brunch or during the holidays. Pick a time when you can have a quiet, relaxed conversation that won’t be rushed.
Get your siblings involved
If you have siblings, make sure that they’re included (or at least invited to participate) in the conversation. That can negate any suspicion that you’re trying to angle for a bigger inheritance and eliminate some conflicts in the future.
Approach the issue with love
Let your parents know that you’re not asking about your inheritance. Instead, you want the focus to be on their wishes and the legacy they want to leave behind. Let them know that you’re simply willing to take a supportive role, whatever their plans.
Find out what’s done and what needs to be done
Your parents may already have quietly gotten some of their estate plans together, but you may still need to know things like:
- Who have they chosen as their executor?
- Do they have powers of attorney in place in case they’re incapacitated?
- Do they have living wills or do not resuscitate orders?
- What burial, cremation or funeral plans do they have?
- Where are the documents they have located?
Since it’s not unusual for spouses to name each other as executors or as their powers of attorney, make sure that your parents have backup plans – just in case they’re involved in a common accident or they both rapidly decline together.
Finally, be prepared to table the subject for another time after you initially bring it up, especially if your parents haven’t taken any steps yet to finalize their plans. You may want to offer to set up a legal consultation on their behalf so that they can benefit from some personalized guidance. That can give them time to think and a chance to explore their options.