Planning for one’s death is a grim process at any age. For some people, the thought is so unpleasant that they will resist this task even late in life. Here are a few tips for talking to parents who are procrastinating their estate planning.
Go light on the pressure
It may take two, three or eight conversations before you can ease a reluctant parent into action. Too much pressure too soon can set you back months or even years.
A good approach may be to come to the table with a basic outline, then suggest options for filling in the blanks. The goal is to make them feel as if they at least have equal power in the decisions, if not primary authority.
If you’re reading this, it may already be too late for this approach, but broaching the subject while your parents are in their 60s may make the process smoother than if they’re in their 80s.
The last thing you want is to be forced into emergency estate planning mode after a health crisis arises. That’s extra stress that no one needs under those circumstances.
Consider bringing in a professional
Delicately introducing an impartial third party might make the whole process easier. Without you standing over their shoulders, your parents might be more open to these discussions. An empathetic, yet dispassionate professional will be able to diminish or eliminate the emotional stress of the process.
Updating an existing will
In some cases, your parents submitted to the estate planning process when they were younger but haven’t updated their will for decades. Outdated wills can be virtually useless, omitting grandchildren, bestowing property onto people who have since become estranged from the family and even naming an executor who has passed away.
A will should be updated whenever there is a significant life event. If they aren’t already, encourage your parents to get into that habit.
Enlist an attorney
If you are able to get through the process without hiring a professional, it’s still a good idea to have an attorney look over your work and provide feedback. Something as minor as ill-considered phrasing could mushroom into a family feud when it comes time to distribute assets.