Several aspects of estate planning can feel overwhelming, which is why so many people tend to procrastinate and put the process off for a later time. Especially when it comes to helping aging parents, putting together an estate plan can feel like a huge task.
There’s the need to gather a lot of documentation, pay for an estate planning attorney, and perhaps the hardest part, to contemplate one’s own death.
Adult children often run into these obstacles when they try to encourage their parents to stop procrastinating and get their affairs in order. But how do you get that conversation started? I have some conversation starters that can help break the ice. Give these a try the next time you talk to mom or dad.
Conversation Starter #1 – Find an example of a family where a parent unexpectedly dies or becomes incapacitated without having the right documents in place.
You can then describe for them how expensive the probate process was or how difficult it was for the adult children to make decisions that should have been up to the parent.
You can also find some examples online and then work one into the conversation. Try something like, “I was watching CNN the other day” or “I was reading XYZ web site, and I saw this crazy story.”
Stories work well because they are memorable and not just hypothetical situations.
Conversation Starter #2 – Let your parents know that if they want a say in what happens to their estate, it’s up to them to line things up now with an estate planning attorney.
Many times, just recognizing that “the government” will be stepping in to settle their affairs is enough to spur a parent to action.
After a lifetime of hard work, it’s unlikely they want some faceless bureaucrat making decisions about their money, right?
Conversation Starter #3 – Do your own estate planning and then share what you’ve learned.
By working with your own estate planning attorney, you are bound to be even more convinced that your parents’ need to plan theirs.
You will also have first-hand knowledge of what the process looks like and can help take away some of the fear and mystery for them.
Just knowing they can come to someone they trust for support helps them make the mental leap they need to get the ball rolling.
Using any of these three conversation starters can help increase the chances that your aging parent will start moving in the right direction. Give them a try the next time you are ready to approach the topic of estate planning with mom or dad.
Steve Greenwood, Esq.