How can I bring up the need for estate planning to my parents?

Sometimes I believe that Dad is afraid my brothers and I are trying to take control of his life by handling his estate and other financial or legal affairs. How can we help him understand that we want to help, not harm, him?

You are not alone! We hear this every day from adult children who are looking out and trying to advocate for their parents. “Having the talk” with your parents about their finances and estate plan is a delicate subject. No one likes to discuss their own disabilities, their decline, or plan for their own death.

We suggest to start small and have a series of conversations as opposed to attempting to address all issues in one large and usually overwhelming meeting. The topic isn’t something you want to bring up at a holiday celebration, their birthday, or Father’s Day. It’s important to share with your father your own concerns about his health and finances. However, the focus at all times must be on what can I, or we as your children, do to ensure that our father lives without financial worries and that his wishes are observed and carried out.

Be patient and look for opportunities to bring up the subject. Perhaps consider discussing your own estate planning and ask for his advice. Ask him “what did you do?” You may want to tell him that you attended a seminar or you talked to your attorney about your plans and want to discuss recent changes. A third idea, is to approach the subject as generally as possible, you can bring up the upcoming election, and discuss that there may be some changes coming down the road affecting his estate plan, gifts he intends to make, and estate taxes.

Having a series of these low-pressure, non-confrontational conversations may help your dad start to open up. There may be some underlying reasons why your dad doesn’t want to”have the talk.” Again, make sure you listen and understand your dad’s concerns, which may include that he feels he doesn’t have enough assets, the cost of estate planning, or that the process is just too complicated.

Contributor: Kerry Peck

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