No one likes to talk about death with family members or friends and yet death is the only guarantee in life. So we are not surprised when working on estate plans with clients to be asked about how to start the conversation with their kids, their parents, or both. This article hopes to address a few items to help prepare you for those conversations. The first step before having the conversation is to ask yourself if you know what to say and are you comfortable having the discussion with the rest of your family. The two things we hear most often are “We don’t know what to say” and “this is not something we normally discuss as a family so I’m nervous about this discussion.” So let’s first discuss how to get ready for the conversation.
Step 1: Prioritize your goals for having the discussion
Step 2: Map out a vision and preferences for end-of-life care and how care will be managed
Step 3: Identify all of your assets and liabilities
Step 4: Discuss guardianships, executorships, and trustee responsibilities
Step 5: Plan for the impact of taxes
Step 6: Communicate your wishes to your family
Step 7: Set the stage for the discussion
Consider scheduling a family dinner or sit down conversation where these items will be discussed. You may also consider it helpful to write down your thoughts or ideas prior to the meeting as means to organize your thoughts. When talking to parents, the child parent dynamic may cause parents to dismiss the concerns of their children and resist the feeling of “being told what to do'' or “how to live their life/lives.” Other dynamics of the child parent relationship are…
- Not wanting to be a burden on their children
- Parents “knowing better”
- Not wanting to give up their freedom if care is needed
- Dwindling financial resources of parents may put burden on children as they approach retirement
- Denial about their own mortality
The key to having a successful conversation with your parents is being specific about what you both want to come out of the conversation and keeping the goal front and center at all times. The purpose is not to have a difficult conversation for its own sake or rehash previous sources of disagreement--it's to proactively create a plan for the smoothest possible end-of-life experience. Focus on the positives of meeting that goal--the parents can have the autonomy of making these decisions for themselves now, and prevent their children having to make difficult decisions and trying to guess what those wishes might be. By clarifying the specifics of what they want for their legacy and their family after they're gone, families can start to plan now to structure what's needed to make that happen, rather than letting circumstances or finances dictate those decisions for you down the road.
While having these discussions can be very difficult it can also be very empowering for your family. Use the Estate Planning Guide to help you get organized. If you would like help in facilitating these discussions then we are here as a resource for you and your family. Use this link to schedule a consultation today!