How to Begin the Conversation About Estate Planning

Communication and estate planning are inseperable by Theodore HendersonEven after your children have left home and begun families of their own, many parents experience some reluctance to have heart-to-heart talks with them about issues of aging. These are both emotional and financial issues, and lack of proper planning can have a devastating impact on everyone involved.

Ask yourself this. Have provisions been made for you and your spouse that deal with potential care and end-of-life issues from both a financial and personal viewpoint? Have you ensured that there is a up-to-date healthcare proxy, power of attorney and a will? Failure to have these documents available to your adult children or other potential care givers can result in problems down the road.

The sad truth is that too many adult children have not asked their parents these questions, either because it is just too uncomfortable or painful and because they simply don’t want to hurt their feelings or cause them anxiety. However, communication is key to ensuring that an estate plan is both adequate and well understood.

These steps may help you open up a dialogue about these sensitive issues.

  1. Begin the conversation. It may be difficult to contemplate, but you do have to start somewhere. Have a healthcare proxy, power of attorney and will be created? If so, are they reviewed annually to take into account life changes such as death of a partner, financial changes, etc.?
  2. Last Will and Testament. This is the first and most basic of the estate planning documents. This document ensures that your assets pass after your death as you intended them to.
  3. Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy. These documents give a trust family member or other person the legal ability to take care of your personal finances or make health care decisions for you if you should become disabled and unable to make decisions on your own.
  4. Funeral Decisions.When a loved one dies, it’s important to have a ceremony that respects the spiritual values of the deceased as well as the survivors. Will the services be secular (non-religious), non-denominational, or religious? In mixed faith families, or for families for no religious affiliate a “Celebration of Life” or “Life Tribute” service may be the obvious choice. These are very important questions that should be answered long before the time comes.

While it is very important to have these end-of-life documents are in place and updated as needed, it is also important to discuss life issues, particularly as parents grow older. Adult children need to know if their parents have enough money to get by in retirement. They need to know if their parents have sufficient money for living expenses, food and prescriptions. Additionally, there should be some frank discussions about long-term care in case of a life altering event such as a stroke or other medical condition that can cause disabilities.

The other side of the coin is that parents also need to know how their adult children feel about their aging issues. While many parents may not want to burden a child with their care responsibilities, they may well find that their children want and need to be part of the conversation and the solutions. It is important for all parties to honestly and openly discuss their views.

Remember, only communication between parents and children can ensure that your plans are properly executed. Quote of the Day from The Wisdom Compass

 

 

Watch against all fretful and discontented thoughts, which do but chafe and wound the mind to no purpose. To harbor these is to do yourself more injury than it is in the power of your greatest enemy to do you. ~ George Mason

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