estate planning for elderly parents

2021-12-15

How to Discuss Estate Planning with Your Parents

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Discussing estate planning and inheritance with your parents can be a difficult conversation. However, it is better to bring up the topic sooner rather than later, especially with elderly parents. At Phelps LaClair, we aim to give families peace of mind with sound estate plans. Continue reading to learn how to sensitively discuss estate planning with your elderly parents. 

Why You Should Discuss Estate Planning with Your Parents

It may be tempting to wait until a significant life event like a birth or death in the family to bring up estate planning. However, the future is uncertain, and you don’t know what could happen in the meantime. It’s best to speak with your parents about estate planning as soon as possible. 

If you don’t discuss estate planning with your parents ahead of time, it can leave you blindsided when it comes to settling their affairs. For instance, your parents may not tell you that they named you as a beneficiary or as the executor of their estate. If you aren’t financially prepared to own their property or don’t feel comfortable fulfilling a role like an executor, you need to discuss this with them while they have time to change their estate plan. 

While you can always disclaim an inheritance, there are many rules to follow when making a disclaimer. It’s best to simply discuss estate planning with your parents in advance so you can let them know what responsibilities and assets you are and are not comfortable receiving. 

How to Talk to Your Elderly Parents About Estate Planning

1. Plan for the Conversation

Before initiating the discussion, prepare yourself by researching and understanding the different elements of an estate plan, such as wills, trusts, and power of attorney. You should also prepare a list of questions you wish to ask your parents about estate planning and their future, such as “Are you working with an attorney?” and “Who should make decisions on your behalf if necessary?”

In order to have an effective conversation, avoid catching your parents off guard with the topic of estate planning. Ease into the topic with your parents by first discussing your own estate plan, celebrity examples, or a recent relevant family event. Remind your parents that you are here to help when it comes to their own estate planning, but don’t force the conversation.

2. Choose a Comfortable Environment

Don’t wait until a time of crisis to bring up estate planning with your family. Estate planning is already a difficult and often emotional topic to discuss, so having the conversation in a calm, comfortable environment is crucial. 

To maintain a positive discussion, make sure to: 

  • Explain how estate planning can benefit your parents
  • Avoid specifics about finances
  • Ask them about their wishes
  • Remain open and honest about your concerns
  • Answer their questions

3. Include Other Family Members

If you have siblings and other adult relatives who are close enough to your parents to be affected by their estate plan, let them know ahead of time when you plan to discuss estate planning with your parents. Doing so will put everyone on the same page about the future and prevent tensions when it comes to settling your parents’ estate. 

4. Respect Their Boundaries

While the discussion itself is extremely important, it is also essential that you respect your parents’ boundaries. If they do not wish to talk about their estate plan, do not keep pushing the subject. Give them some time, and gently bring up the topic again when they are more comfortable. It’s also a good idea to leave finances out of the discussion and instead focus on the creation of wills and trusts, who any beneficiaries will be, and what roles will need to be fulfilled.

5. Have Follow-Up Conversations

Keep in mind that estate planning is a conversation you’ll need to have more than once. It’s a good idea to review any relevant documents with your parents and an estate planning attorney after the initial conversation, so they can verify that everything is up-to-date. Also, when a divorce or remarriage occurs, and new children or grandchildren are born, your parents’ estate plan could require updates that necessitate further discussion. 

Meet With an Arizona Estate Planning Attorney

After discussing estate planning with your elderly parents, you can ensure that they maintain a well-designed estate plan by consulting a professional. At Phelps LaClair in Arizona, we have been helping families create wills and trusts as well as manage their estate plans for over 40 years. To schedule your free first consultation, call us at 480-892-2488 today.

Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (12/15/2021). Photo by Sofia Shultz from Pexels

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