Fall is ending, and the New Year is just around the corner. The holidays are a complex time of year, full of family gatherings, financial anxiety, joy, obligation, and—for many—the nagging awareness that this year, they really do need to talk to their aging parents about estate planning.
No one looks forward to planning for the day mom and dad are no longer around. It is certainly not the sort of jovial table talk you want to bring up over a big turkey dinner. Nonetheless, speaking to your parents about estate planning is important, and it is essential that the whole family partake in the conversation. Especially in this modern world of increasingly dispersed lives, the holidays are often the only time everyone is in the same room, and so it is crucial to take advantage of the opportunity.
Three Tips for Having “The Talk”
1. Prepare Ahead of Time
The best way to ensure the holidays are not ruined by an unpleasant conversation is to arrive prepared. You will want to both think about how best to broach the subject, and also what needs to be addressed once you start talking.
One avenue that provides a clean segue into the question of estate planning is to ask your parents about their retirement plans. Another may be to explain that you are starting to think about your own estate plan—something all adults should do, anyway—and would appreciate their insight.
Whatever your point of entry, it is important to have a clear sense of the ground you need to cover once the conversation is rolling. Here, it helps to have spoken to an experienced estate planning attorney ahead of time, who can give you a comprehensive list of relevant topics.
Parents often do not want to face their own mortality any more than you do, so you should not expect to get to everything (or even much of anything) the first time you chat. Gaining a comprehensive picture of the legacy they hope to leave—and their intentions concerning their assets—will take time. This is among the many reasons it is important to start the discussion sooner than later.
2. Involve Other Siblings and Interested Parties
If you have siblings, or if you know other family members or loved ones who have a vested interest in your parents’ estate plan, it is crucial that they be involved in the conversation. For some families, this may be a major hurdle, as such relationships are not always simple…and yet you are doing yourself no favors by avoiding the issue. After all, what is not sorted out ahead of time (and with your parents’ input) is likely to be litigated later (which is neither easier, nor cheaper).
Estate planning is all about charting a course that allows a family’s past generations to care for its future generations. This concerns not just financial matters, but sentimental ones, too. Involving your siblings from the very beginning is thus not just a way to avoid potential future conflicts, but also a way to uphold the very core of the activity. What’s more, without everyone’s involvement, parents may be reticent to engage in the subject which, of course, is essential.
3. Seek Experienced Legal Counsel
An experienced estate planning attorney does more than ensure your parents’ Last Will and Testament (and other important documents) are properly drafted. They also act as a guide and source of insight from the beginning of the estate planning process, through to its end. A good attorney will have many years of experience, and upon this basis will be able to steer you around roadblocks and help you navigate tricky situations. What’s more, they will work to ensure your parents’ documents remain up-to-date, work as planned, and accurately reflect the legacy they wish to leave behind.
To learn more about speaking to your parents about the importance of estate planning or to dive right into the process, do not hesitate to contact the dedicated team at Caress Law either by calling (503) 292-8990 or using the contact form on our website.