One thing to take notice of is that as we age, our parents do as well. It can be a scary thing as offspring to see your once healthy and strong parents “lose it”. They are protective in their role as parents and providers, so naturally they don’t want their children to see them slip even in the slightest way.
As parents age, some of them may have memory issues, others prolonged illnesses, or other health related problems. As they probably don’t like to talk about their health, they in most cases don’t like to talk about their finances either. Therefore, having a conversation about their estate plan (if there even is one) can be rather challenging.
They may tell you “it’s none of your business” or “everything is taken care of.” But actually this is your business and chances are everything is not taken care of. Starting the conversation may be difficult so here are some pointers.
There are plenty of stories out there for you to show as examples. Bring up the subject with friends and you may be surprised of the examples they may be able to give you. Recently, the father of a good friend of mine who was in the insurance business recently died without insurance and his wife was forced to sell the family home.
If you feel you and your brothers and sisters aren’t on good terms now, wait until your parent pass away without a will or with an obsolete will, or without an inter vivos trust that could help save burdensome estate taxes and the long waiting process of probate.
Here are some other ways you can start the conversation:
“Mom (or dad), did you know that estate tax laws are going to be changing in 2013? Perhaps we should look into this.
Just directly ask them what kind of plan they have for their assets and explain to them how concerned you are as this affects you. It really can be that simple.
Personalize the Approach
See who in the family is best suited to raise the subject with your parents, and which parent is most likely to be receptive? Or perhaps the family lawyer or a trusted family friend could help get the conversation started.
Remember to appeal to what would appeal to them: saving taxes, avoiding probate, preventing a sale of the family home, loss of retirement investments in a declining market, protecting the kids, providing for (or protecting from) a spouse or preventing an ugly family dispute.
Now go out there and the conversation started!