Helping Seniors Get Comfortable About Their Estate Planning
No matter how good of a relationship you have with your aging parents, estate planning is a sensitive subject. Approach with care.
Here’s some tips for transitioning your loved ones into conversations about their estate planning.
- If they do not initially welcome your involvement, try to make it clear that your interest is in being there for them when the time is right.
- Use well-placed humor to help awkward questions. “Don’t break that vase! I want that when you’re six feet under!”
- Not a humorist? Give them an article, a study, even a cartoon from a financial magazine to help break the ice.
- Put together a list of your concerns. That way, they are less likely to dwell on just one or two of your inquiries. Plus, it will help if you get shut down in your inquiries.
- Attend an estate planning or financial planning seminar with your parents, taught by a seasoned expert in the field. This will often broaden the perspective on what good planning consists of in the field today.
- Obtain a free professional consultation to set their minds at ease or prompt them to take action as needed. Most professionals provide such an interview. Don’t necessarily bring your parents to your own financial advisor, attorney or CPA. This may present a conflict of interest for the advisor. Put the idea on the table and offer to find a good neutral advisor for them.
- Set limits on the relationship. What can you help with and what not? Who else can be helpful? When will you be available? Allow for feedback on your working relationship. Are you keeping to your promise not to be too bossy or nosy? How do you think your friend or family member is doing in sharing information?
- When issues arise, try to get your parent or friend to promptly address them. These could be problems of confusion (“I don’t know what to do!”), resignation (“There’s nothing I can do…”), or desperation (“No one can help me.”). There is almost always something that can be done in estate planning to address any situation.
- Provide for accountability. Suggest to the parent that it would be a good idea to bring you (or your siblings) into the loop every now and then on what their plans are and that you are willing to do that for everyone’s peace of mind. Ask if it’s okay that you check in on them regarding their affairs to make sure that everything is up to date.
These recommendations should take the pressure off of you, while empowering your aging loved ones to embrace your help in the process.