Clients, friends and family often ask, “How do I talk to my parents about their estate plan without it seeming morbid or self-interested?” After all, if you parents don’t have an estate plan or has one that is inadequate or outdated, you are likely to be the one that will have to take care of things and clean up the mess after they’re gone. While it’s not an easy conversation to have, it is an important one.  Here are some possible ways to broach the subject:

  • If you are in the process or recently set up your own estate plan, this is a great ice breaker. You might try something along the lines of, “We’ve been working on our estate plan and our lawyer said we should talk to family members about our wishes and where our documents are if something happens to us so the family will know what to do. It occurred to me that I don’t know much about your own planning. Where are your documents stored? What are your wishes?”
  • For a variety of reasons, most estate plans become outdated over time. If your parents haven’t had their estate plan reviewed in the last 3 to 5 years, then it may be out of date. So rather than starting out by asking the details of your parents plan, you might just start out more simply by asking when’s the last time they had it reviewed and/or updated?
  • Estate planning is not all about death planning. You may wish to focus the discussion on disability planning and health care decisions. Consider talking to your parents first about how they’d wish to be cared for in the event of a potential disability. There are regular stories in the news about Alzheimer’s and dementia that could be used as fodder for a potential ice breaker on the subject.
  • Similarly, the recent medical event or death of a friend or family member or event a news story can be an effective ice-breaker for initiating discussion about estate planning.
  • Discuss the fact that you recently learned that having no plan or an outdated plan can cause unnecessary stress and frustration for family members, including a surviving spouse.

Also keep in mind that for some, the thought of contact an attorney can be daunting, especially if they’ve never worked with one before. Consider making this process easier for your parents by asking friends and family for a referral to an estate planning attorney in your area and do some of the ‘due diligence’ for your parents to make the process easier for them.  If your parent’s health is already failing, don’t assume it’s a lost cause, some attorneys will make hospital calls if necessary.

Concerned about whether or not your parents have their affairs in order? Call our office at 919-443-3035 to discuss the best place to start.

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