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Horizon Elder Law & Estate Planning Blog

Friday, July 21, 2017

When Should You Talk to Your Parents About Their Estate Plan?

Both aging parents and their adult children are often reluctant to talk about the parents’ finances. The parents may feel money is a taboo topic, particularly with one’s children. The adult children do not want to be considered greedy or intrusive. So many people procrastinate until it is too late.

But it can cause significant problems if adult children do not have the financial talk with their parents. Consulting with an experienced estate-planning attorney can help. In the meantime, check out these helpful tips on talking with your parents about their estate plan.

The 40-70 Rule

Experts recommend that you have “the talk” when the adult child is around 40 years old, and the parent is approaching age 70. The idea behind the 40-70 Rule is that the child is mature enough to understand the gravity of the issues and the parent is young enough to take action on his wishes. As the parent ages beyond age 70, there is a greater likelihood of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, stroke and other conditions that could impair his ability to make vital decisions.

Have The Talk Before You Need The Information

Do not wait until the family is in crisis to have a candid talk with your parents about their estate planning documents. In times of crisis, emotions run high. You have to make decisions quickly. Those judgment calls are easier if you know your parent’s wishes and you know her finances.

Imagine your parent had a stroke. He is unconscious and on life support. If he does not have an advance directive or a power of attorney for health care decisions, and you have not had a conversation about want he would want in this situation, how can you make the decision about continuing life support? If you do not know about his bills, how can you make sure the utilities are not shut off and that the mortgage does not go into default?

If you do not know where his will is, who will handle things if he dies? Does he have life insurance? How will you pay for his funeral and burial? Too many families pay for the funeral and burial out of their own pockets, only to find out later that the deceased parent had a paid-up funeral plan and burial plot.

Do Not Spring It On Your Parents

Ask to talk with your parents, and set a date and time. If you just walk up and ask, “Have you made a will?” your parents might wonder, “Why? Are you hoping I’ll die soon?” One way to broach the topic is to ask your parents to advise you on your estate planning.

Explain Why The Talk Is Important

Admit to your parents that you are worried they might not have enough money for their golden years. You are anxious about whether they have prepared the necessary documents to protect the survivor when one of them passes. You just want to make sure they will be financially secure so that you can sleep better at night.

Even with the best estate plan, there can be misunderstandings after the parent passes. Their children and grandchildren may have hurt feelings because the parent gave something to one person instead of another. Let your parents know that you want to understand their wishes so you can avoid arguments and speculation later. When families approach “the talk” the right way, everyone wins.

Talking to your parents about their end of life needs is never easy. For compassionate advice,  talk to the professional elder law attorneys at Horizonlaw today by calling 925.275.5509.


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