If you are like many adults, your parents have always been your rock. During your childhood, they were strong, independent and in control. However, as your parents age, they may become dependent on you in many ways.
Helping to care for your parents can be rewarding but stressful. Perhaps one of the most stressful aspects is taking care of your parents’ affairs when they are no longer capable. It is in your best interest — and theirs — to approach your parents now about estate planning.
Talk to siblings
Get your siblings on the same page. This is especially important if you worry about your parents’ financial situation. If your parents do need help, you should know ahead of time what each of you can do. Form a game plan. Select the sibling who is most tactful to talk to your parents first; if you all spring at once your parents may feel attacked.
Approach your parents gently. Express concern without sounding as if you are questioning their abilities. First, find out how your parents see their future. They may have worries but not know how to bring up their concerns.
Next, figure out where they stand. Look at their retirement accounts, plans for long-term health care, powers of attorney and business succession plans. Note where the gaps are.
Last, gauge their appetite for moving forward. If they know how they want to divide their assets, they may be ready to begin estate planning immediately.
Keep talking — and listening
You will likely encounter some resistance as you talk about end-of-life plans. You may need to bring up the subject several times before you make progress. Remind them that an estate plan is a way to express their wishes. Your parents may be more comfortable if you bring in a neutral third party, either a trusted friend or an estate planning professional. Suggest and guide, then listen with compassion and patience.