How Can I Talk To My Parents About Estate Planning?

​​Family gatherings present opportunities for you to talk to your parents about getting an estate plan in place. Starting the conversation may seem daunting initially. It’s hard to confront the fact that your parents will, one day, no longer be there. From your parent’s perspective, the potential loss of independence and autonomy as they age may be especially hard to acknowledge.  

Why Discussing Estate Planning with Your Parents is Necessary.

The first time I had this discussion with a parent was in my mother’s hospital room where she was recovering from a sudden and frightening medical emergency. My mother had been rushed to the hospital because she was having trouble breathing and suffered a complete respiratory arrest in the emergency room. I arrived at the hospital, after traveling for several hours, to find her in the ICU on a ventilator. She did not have an advance health care directive, and my younger siblings (on the other side of the country) both informed her doctor that I should be the one to make decisions since I was the oldest and was about to arrive.  

My mother’s doctor greeted me and immediately asked me to authorize a “no-code” because her condition appeared to be so dire. I had never spoken to my mother about her end-of-life wishes and had to stop to consider what I thought she would want. After she recovered and we could talk, I told her she had to get a power of attorney and an advance health care directive in place, immediately, because it was so incredibly difficult for me to function as her surrogate decision maker without any instructions from her.

Talking to Your Parents About Estate Planning.

Perhaps the easiest way to introduce the topic is to tell your parents about your own estate planning. You can share what you’ve learned about the process and point out how having a revocable trust, will, powers of attorney, and advance health care directives in place is really about peace of mind for everyone during your lifetime. You are welcome to share my story if you like. 

You can also point out that creating an estate plan is a way for your parents to maintain control over their assets, personal care, and living options in later years. For example, a comprehensive estate plan can help ensure that they remain in their own home instead of being forced into a communal assisted living setting if that’s their preference. I read a story about one woman who decided that she would book a series of round-the-world cruises because meals and health care were provided onboard, and she reasoned the expense was equal to living in an assisted living community – and she could travel. Here’s an article on cruise ship living for seniors.

You should also have a frank discussion, with or without your other siblings, about who is the best choice to make medical or financial decisions for your parents if they become disabled due to injury, illness, or just old age. It’s important to focus on how having legal documents in place that name the most qualified family member to make financial or medical decisions will benefit the whole family.   

What to Discuss about Estate Planning with Your Parents.

The question of how your parents’ estate will be distributed upon their eventual deaths is an important topic, but it should also be approached from the standpoint of empowering their wishes. It’s normal to hope your parents will leave you an inheritance, and you can certainly acknowledge this, but that should never be the focus of your discussion with them about estate planning.

In fact, you should approach any discussion about your parents’ assets from the perspective that a comprehensive estate plan will help them to maximize their quality of life during retirement while ensuring they will have enough to last them until the end of their lives. Your parents may bring up the topic of wanting to leave something to you, your siblings, or their grandchildren, but you should emphasize your understanding that those decisions are to be made entirely by them. 

You need your parents to create a comprehensive estate plan so you, and the rest of your siblings, are fully aware of your parents’ wishes about how they will spend their time during retirement, what health care decisions they would want to be made on their behalf, where they will live as they continue to age and who will be responsible for stepping in to make decisions on their behalf when needed. By creating a comprehensive estate plan, your parents are helping you to help them.    

Need an Estate Planning Attorney in San Diego? We Can Help.

Talking to your parents about estate planning helps you avoid surprises and challenges that may arise as they age and during the distribution of their property. Although the discussion can be emotional and overwhelming, it’s important to think about what is at stake and what you can do now to honor your parent’s life and wishes.

At Bellator Law Group, our team of estate planning attorneys will help you deliberate on the critical issues concerning estate planning to ensure a smooth retirement transition and distribution of inheritance. Please contact us online or call us at (619) 232-8377 to schedule a consultation with our legal professionals.

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