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Helping your parents emotionally prepare for estate planning

Do you worry that your parents do not have sufficient estate plans in place or any at all? You probably want to bring the subject up, but this can be very challenging when your parents insist on being independent and avoid talks about the future. The subject of end-of-life decisions can be difficult for the elderly as time brings them closer to that reality.

However, it is imperative that your aging parents have financial and medical security in the event of incapacitation or death. There are ways you can ease into the topic to help your family.

Be prepared

First, arm yourself with knowledge on whatever plans they already have in place along with what they still need prioritized by importance. You do not want to overwhelm them with documents. Research state laws and work through questions with an elder law attorney.

Choose the right setting

When you are ready to talk, pick the right time, place and person. Avoid emotionally charged situations. Consider if it would be best to discuss as a whole family or just one on one. Decide who would be best to start the conversation, preferably someone calm, responsible and trustworthy in your parents' eyes.

Stay positive

Focus on your parents' general goals instead of diving right into the "scary" stuff. For example, talk about your parents' desire to remain independent and how certain caregiving or estate plans can help them achieve that. Another approach is to put the attention on how they can protect their family, keep their legacy safe or donate to charity through proper legal documents. Let your parents answer broad questions instead of you lecturing them. Validate their feelings as well as the importance of continuing the discussion.

Follow up

It is okay to end the conversation early if things are not going well, though share that you will bring it up again at another time. You may need the assistance of your parents' medical providers, friends, religious leaders or other trusted persons to help your parents be more receptive. Sometimes hearing it from someone who is not family is more effective.

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McHugh & Macri
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