How to Talk to Your Parents About Getting an Estate Plan

How to talk to your parents about getting an estate plan

Talking to parents about finances, funeral plans, and estate planning is never easy. You may view “the talk” in the same way your parents viewed having “the (other) talk” with you when you were a teenager. However, as it was important for our parents to talk to us about issues that would greatly impact our lives, it is important to discuss issues such as estate planning, asset protection, and end-of-life care with our parents while they can make decisions for themselves.

Parents and Children May Be Uncomfortable Discussing Money and Health Matters

Many children find it difficult to bring up the subject of estate planning and family planning without sounding or appearing nosy or greedy. However, discussing financial and health matters with your parents is actually a sign that you care deeply about your parents’ welfare. Unfortunately, silence can lead to problems. Failing to make decisions and make those decisions known regarding end-of-life medical treatments and estate planning can result in arguments, hurt feelings, and litigation among children and other family members.


Regardless of how uncomfortable the topic may make you feel, it is important to discuss the need for estate planning and asset protection with your parents.

Benefits of a Comprehensive Estate Plan for Parents

When you talk to your parents about estate planning and family protection, you may want to highlight the many benefits of having an estate plan.


The benefits of an estate plan you can highlight during “the talk” with your parents include:


  • Minimizing Expenses – The cost of probating an estate without a will is often more expensive compared to probating an estate with a will and other carefully designed and drafted estate planning tools.


  • Distributing Assets Quickly — Without an estate plan, family members could wait several months or a year before they receive title to assets or money to pay bills. Estate planning or family planning helps ensure that family members have access to the funds they need to pay living expenses, funeral bills, medical expenses, and other debts.


  • Protecting Assets — Trust agreements can be an important element of a family protection plan. Assets held in a trust are protected from court intervention, ex-spouses, children’s creditors, and other liabilities.


  • Reducing Arguments and Disagreements — Estate planning cannot prevent all disagreements between family members, but it can reduce the risk of arguments when you make your wishes known through your will and other estate planning documents. You also relieve your family from making difficult end-of-life decisions by making your wishes known in a Healthcare Directive.


  • Eliminating or Reducing Estate Taxes — Careful planning can save money for the family by reducing the taxable value of your estate. Trusts, gifting strategies, and beneficiary designations may be used to remove property from probate to reduce or eliminate estate taxes.


  • Planning for Retirement — Estate planning is often an important element of retirement planning. Planning for long-term care, Medicaid (Medi-Cal) planning, and healthcare planning are important elements of a plan that ensures you have sufficient funds for retirement and to leave as a legacy for your children.


  • Planning for Incapacity — Another important element of an estate plan is the plan for incapacity. With a durable power of attorney, you can avoid the need for a court-appointed conservator or guardian. A healthcare power of attorney designates agents to speak for you if you are unable to do so.


  • Leaving Money to Charities — Charitable giving may be very important for your parents. Through their will or trust agreements, they can support a charity or a cause that is important to them and the family.


  • Providing for Pets — Estate planning for pets is also important for elderly adults who have “fur babies” they care deeply for and want to protect. With a pet trust, your parents can provide for the care and financial needs of their pets.


Business Succession Planning — Family protection and family planning are often the core concerns of a business succession plan. Your parents can provide for the orderly transition of the family business to family members who are prepared and willing to continue the business. A business succession plan may also provide for the orderly dissolution or sale of the business upon your parents’ retirement, incapacitation, or death.

Tips for Beginning The Conversation With Your Parents

Now that you are armed with a list of benefits of estate planning, you may be at a loss for how to bring up the subject with your parents. First, you should complete your own estate plan. Your parents may try to deflect the topic by claiming it is not important because you have not taken the time to develop an estate plan. It can help to ease into the conversation by talking about your efforts to protect your family by creating an estate plan.


Before you talk to your parents, talk to your siblings. When you and your siblings approach your parents as a united front, it can be more difficult for your parents to avoid the topic. It is best to schedule a time to talk to your parents instead of ambushing them with the topic. You may want to avoid the urge to bring up the topic at family functions, such as birthdays and holidays. You need to schedule sufficient time to discuss all relevant issues, but you also may need to have several meetings instead of attempting to resolve all issues in a marathon session.


Focus on what your parents want by asking them what their goals and desires would be for an estate plan. Always approach subjects from a place of sharing and compassion. Let your parents known that your goal is to ensure their needs are met and their desires are known, respected, and carried out by all family members.


Estate planning documents you may want to discuss with your parents include:


  • Wills

  • Trust Agreements

  • Durable Power of Attorney

  • Living Wills

  • Healthcare Directives

  • Medical Powers of Attorney

  • Beneficiary Designations

  • HIPAA Authorizations

  • Do Not Resuscitate Orders (DNRs)

Ask a California Estate Planning Attorney for Help


It can help to meet with a California estate planning attorney before “the talk” with your parents. An attorney can provide additional tips and suggestions for talking to parents about estate planning. We are here to offer you specific suggestions based on your parents’ current financial and health care needs.


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