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How to Talk to Your Parents About Estate Planning

- AlerStallings

If you’ve read any of our previous articles, you know the importance of having an estate plan. But what happens when you’re not sure if your elderly parents have one? How should you approach the topic with them? 


Chances are estate planning isn’t your family’s preferred Sunday night family dinner topic. And let’s face it: though you may be an adult, your parents will always see you as their child. Taking advice from your kid can be a hard pill to swallow. That’s why it’s important to approach the topic with sensitivity and tact, acknowledging their lifetime of hard work and giving them a gentle nudge in the right direction. To help relieve some stress, read on for our tips.  



Respect Their Desire for Privacy 

Boomers and their children (many of which are millennials) differ in many ways, but one of the starkest contrasts is their openness about money. One study found that while 46% of millennials discuss their finances with their parents, the communication channel doesn’t go both ways. Only 24% of boomers indicated they talk to their kids about their finances.  


For much of their lives, talking about finances was (and for some boomers still is) a taboo topic. Millennials on the other hand, having come of age during the Great Recession, believe that talking about finances can be beneficial. The best advice for bridging this divide is to tread lightly. Understand that you can’t tell your parents what to do; instead, make them want to do it on their own.  



Make It Relatable 

One of the best ways to do that is to keep the conversation relatable but simple. Bring up a real-life example of someone you know—such as a family member or friend—who passed away and discuss how their affairs were handled. If they had an estate plan (or didn’t) talk about the impact of that choice and how things could have been different. It’s a good way to broach the subject without putting your parent on the spot. 



Walk in Others’ Shoes 

Considering the impact estate planning could have on other loved ones can be a powerful motivator. For instance, if something happens to mom, the burden of sorting through matters of their estate would shift to dad (or vice versa). If both pass away without an estate plan, the burden could shift to you. Their estate could be stuck in probate (yes, even with a will), racking up attorney fees, with decisions on inheritance being decided by the court. Your parents may not feel comfortable discussing their finances, but they might feel even less comfortable with the idea of leaving one spouse to go it alone or, in the latter example, leaving you in a lurch.  



Bring the Facts 

Did you know only 44% of adults 55 and older have a will? That’s unfortunate for a couple reasons. First, having an estate plan is crucial for helping you avoid some of life’s most difficult situations. Second, a will is simply not enough to avoid probate or protect you from long-term care costs. Many retirees need additional estate planning to adequately safeguard their assets. 


Estate planning is an emotional process; understanding what’s at stake can be the catalyst to forward motion. Share with your parents any of the above links to start the conversation. Let them know what thoughts it spurred for you and let them share their thoughts as well. If they’re open to estate planning, make it easy for them to follow through. Set up the appointment and let them know that you’ll go with them or drive them there if they want. 


And remember, sometimes less is more. That’s why we offer complimentary 15-minute phone consultations with our caring attorneys, so clients can dip their toe in the water and better understand the process with no obligation. If that feels like a comfortable next step for your family, schedule a time that works best for you. We’d be happy to help.