Estate Planning: The Other “Facts of Life” Talk with Parents
Estate planning and incapacity planning often bring up some very sensitive subjects. No one likes to talk about their death or incapacity and confront their mortality and aging. But we all know it’s a topic we must face one day.
When you are considering these subjects for yourself, it’s a matter of being realistic and practical enough to face some of the facts of life. On the other hand, talking about some of these matters with your parents could be quite a different and more difficult matter.
In many cases children will find themselves providing assistance to their parents as they age in various ways. Some elders have a hard time accepting this role reversal.
Children are often the drive behind getting an estate plan done. With all the media attention to estate planning, it may be hard to believe that only about a third of adults in this country have an estate plan!
One impediment to estate planning is seniors’ reluctance to share financial information with their family members. It could be because the children stand to inherit a significant amount of money, and the parents want to keep this confidential. Or they are just private people, and wish to maintain their independence. They may view the involvement of the children as meddling.
In other cases the reverse is true. Parents may not have much of an estate at all, and they may keep quiet because they are not particularly anxious to share this information. Children need to work through this potentially embarrassing situation and motivate elders to plan.
Many people are going to need long-term-care eventually, and it is very expensive. A significant percentage of senior citizens lose their capacity to make sound decisions on their own.
For these reasons, children really do need to have an understanding of the financial situation that their parents are in. They may be required to make arrangements that hinge on the financial capabilities of their parents. Children can also help determine the right type of planning and find a qualified lawyer to help.
One way to broach the subject would be to share the details of your own estate planning efforts with your parents. Bringing the subject up can perhaps foster a broader two-way conversation. Another idea is to see if your estate planning lawyer, or your parents’ estate planning lawyer, offers workshops or seminars on estate planning matters or the roles that family members will one day have to play. Many lawyers offer free estate planning consultations as well.
However you decide to proceed, this dynamic is something to consider if you have not yet discussed the eventualities of aging with your parents. I call this the “Other Facts of Life” conversation. The sooner you have it with your parents, the better you — and your parents — will be prepared.
Check the www.zimmerlawfirm.com for Zimmer Law Talk™ workshops on estate planning topics from time to time throughout the year.