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How to talk to aging parents about their estate plan

Few people are eager to talk about estate planning with their loved ones, particularly aging parents. These are undeniably difficult conversations, fraught with emotion.

They are also, however, incredibly beneficial. It’s an opportunity for you to speak openly with your parent about what they want, what they hope for and what would make them happy. So how do you actually broach the subject without seeming insensitive?

Where to start: Advice from real people

The Wall Street Journal recently tackled this topic and asked readers for suggestions based on their own experiences. Here are some helpful examples from the story:

  • Approach the topic gently, but speak to your parents as the adults they are.
  • Start by bringing up small topics that may open the door to a big-picture conversation.
  • Provide information about estate planning to help them consider their options.
  • Ask a trusted family friend or third party to first bring up the subject.

There are times, however, it can pay to just be straightforward. You may be surprised at how quickly an unprompted question turns into an honest conversation.

What to talk about

In Forbes, one writer suggests thinking about estate planning as a collection of topics, then approaching those one at a time. This may help you find a more natural way to ease into the conversation.

You’ll want to ask about:

  • Medical plans, including power of attorney and preferred treatments
  • Who they want to serve in key roles, if necessary, including executor, financial and medical power of attorney, and guardian
  • Creating an advanced medical directive if they don’t have one yet
  • Insurance policies and beneficiaries
  • What they would like to do with their property and assets – particularly if there are sought-after family heirlooms, or they want to give to a charity

Having these long-term planning discussions may not be fun or easy. But they can provide a sense of comfort and stability to you, your aging parent and the rest of your family. By knowing what they want, you can feel more confident in helping to make sure their wishes are followed.

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