No matter if your parents are well off or if they are living on their Social Security benefits, you may be thinking of speaking with them about estate planning. As an adult child of aging parents, you know that it’s an important conversation to have, but you are worried about coming off greedy.
If you are feeling this way, you’re not the only one. Having a conversation with your parents about what to do with their assets after they are gone isn’t a comfortable one. Not only are you worried about what your parents will think of you by bringing up the subject, but, ultimately, you will be talking about their death, which is still considered a sensitive topic in our culture.
The trouble is this: If you don’t talk to your parents about their plans for their estate, things may not be handled correctly after they pass away. If you don’t talk to your parents about their plans and one sibling receives more than another, feelings may be hurt. It is a conversation that must be had, no matter how uncomfortable. There are ways to make it less so. Use the following tips to begin and have the conversation with your aging parents as soon as possible.
1. Ask for the Meeting
One of the worst ways to approach the subject is to just blurt it out over dinner or during a family gathering. Instead, ask for a meeting. When you start to talk about estate planning, tell your parents that you want to be sure their wishes are carried out appropriately upon their passing and that you want everyone to be on the same page. This will make it more about them and less about the rest of the family.
2. Stay Focused
The estate belongs to your parents and it is theirs to do with what they wish. Stay focused on their wants. Explain to your parents that you are sure they don’t want the family thrown into turmoil, arguing over assets after their death. The purpose of estate planning is to make sure that their belongings are placed with the people they intend.
3. Choose Your Words
The key to having this conversation and making it go well is to be an active listener. The first thing you want to do is to repeat what you have heard your parents say. Next, you want to validate what has been said and finally, empathize with what has been said. This is a way for your parents to understand that you have placed yourself in their shoes and are on the same page. It also lets them know that you have heard exactly what has been said.
When you are speaking to your parents, use the acronym ACE: ask, confirm and encourage. Do not ask your parents “why” questions. Their decisions are their own and are not truly any of your business. If you question your parents’ reasons for the way they want their assets distributed, the conversation may turn argumentative and your parents may stop talking altogether.
Of course, if your parent is suffering from dementia or other cognitive issue, you may want to ask “why” questions, just to make sure they understand what they’re doing.
4. Put It On You
Another great approach is to tell your parents that you are putting together your own financial plan. Ask them if they have any advice or if you will be receiving any assets that should be included in your plan. If your parents haven’t begun estate planning, this may be just the jumpstart they need.
5. Halt Objections
Let’s say that you have had money troubles in the past, and that it is a fair assumption on your parents’ part that this conversation is about you and what you stand to gain. Head that argument off before it even begins.
Tell your parents that you understand that by bringing this up, it may seem as though you are only interested in what you have to gain, but it is about them and not you. Assure your parents that you aren’t asking for money or tangible goods, but that you are concerned about how their wishes will be carried out after their passing.
Estate planning may not be the most comfortable subject to bring up with your parents. Unfortunately, it is something that must be discussed. If your parents don’t leave a will, your family may be left arguing over how assets will be divided and no one wants that. If you need to have a conversation with your parents about estate or other financial planning, use the tips above to get the conversation started.
Speak with an Atlanta Estate Planning Attorney Today
If you would like assistance with estate planning in Atlanta, please reach out to our office. We will help you schedule a consultation and discuss your options with you. We know that this can be a difficult subject and we are here to answer the questions you have. Call our office today to arrange for your appointment and learn more about taking care of your financial future.
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