How to talk to an aging parent about estate planning

As an adult child of an aging parent, you probably have a lot of things on your mind. As your parent gets older, you must grapple with the fact that he or she may pass away soon. With this reality at the forefront of your thoughts, you likely have some questions about your parent’s estate plan.

Estate planning can be a difficult subject to talk about with your mom or dad, but if you know next to nothing about the plan or if there even is one, it is important to start the conversation. Here are some suggestions on how to approach this topic with your elderly parent.

Understand the reasons for reluctance

There are several reasons why your parent may be cagey about estate plan discussions:

  • Not wanting to think about death
  • Feeling overwhelmed by the complications of estate planning
  • Avoiding talk about money

Always keep these factors and the emotions behind them in mind. The more understanding and compassionate you are, the better.

Focus on certain key issues

If you do not want to come across as asking for a big inheritance or wanting to know every detail, it is helpful to frame the conversation around a few core items:

  • Protecting and preserving assets: Explain how a solid estate plan will help your parent safeguard wealth and belongings.
  • Honoring medical wishes: Talk to your mom or dad about how estate planning can outline his or her wishes regarding life support, resuscitation and other end-of-life care issues.
  • Reducing conflict: If your parent fails to establish or explain an estate plan, it can result in sibling squabbles and probate litigation.
  • Eliminating or lowering taxes: Strategic planning can reduce your parent’s tax burden and leave more to his or her heirs.

Explain and reiterate the notion that you simply want what is best for your parent. Approach this discussion patiently and you can help work out or learn about your mother or father’s estate plan.