How do you speak to loved ones about your estate plan?

People usually find it stressful to talk to family members about decisions they are making for their estate plan, and this can lead a lot of people to avoid having these conversations. Sometimes, a parent’s adult children won’t talk to their parents about this topic because they don’t want to acknowledge that their parent may one day become incapacitated and will eventually pass away. It can be too difficult for children to accept that their parents may be anything less than healthy and safe from harm.

The dynamics of that family may also make it harder for these conversations to take place. It’s common for one sibling to live closer to their parents and see more of the reality of the parents’ health and illness as they age while a sibling who lives far away has trouble accepting that there are any issues at all.  The child who sees their parents more often may want to have conversations about planning for incapacity or death, and the child who doesn’t live locally may see this as inappropriate or not yet needed.

An estate plan is a collection of documents nearly all adults should have in order to plan for if they become unable to make their own decisions and for when they die. This typically includes documents such as:

·      Last will and testament

·      Power of attorney for health care decisions

·      Power of attorney for financial decisions

·      Advanced directive documents

·      HIPAA medical privacy waiver

·      Revocable living trust

Sometimes a child is unwilling to talk to their parent about estate planning because the child feels it is none of their business. If that’s the case for you and your child, let your child know it is important for them to be aware of your wishes so that you will be more confident that these wishes will be honored. You could also shift the “blame” to the attorney and let your child know that this conversation is an important step to finalize the planning process for your estate planning documents.

Also, a child might not be willing to talk with a parent about estate planning because they think their parent is focusing too much on their final plans instead of on the life they have and on enjoying it. If you are able to, try to find a way to express to them that planning for your death isn’t motivated by an unhealthy preoccupation with it, but is instead motivated by wanting to live a happier and less worry-filled life. A lot of people who don’t have estate planning and other similar matters in order live with this feeling of unfinished business in the back of their mind, and this gets in the way of enjoying life to its fullest. I would encourage you to begin the conversation about your estate plan with your child by being clear that this is important for you to be able to embrace life more fully and with less to worry about.

If you are an adult child whose parent wants to talk to you about their estate plan, I encourage you to listen to them and do your best to be open to this conversation, as hard as it may be. In doing so, you will likely help your parent have less to be actively worrying about. If you are the parent wanting to discuss this topic with your adult children, I hope you are able to approach this conversation both with confidence and understanding that those who love you may not be ready to face your mortality.

For help with your estate plan, contact us at Wilson and Wilson Estate Planning and Elder Law, LLC