Earlier this week we celebrated Mother’s Day, one of our nation’s most precious holidays. Your mom has been there for you during the happiest and the saddest times. She was your first love, your first friend, and even your first big fight. She was the cool hand on your forehead when you were not feeling well, and the first in line to celebrate your successes. However, there comes a time when every mom needs a little support too.
If you are one of the nations’ army of 77 million baby boomers, you have probably already heard somewhere that you belong to the first generation to take care of parents who are living longer and living with more chronic medical conditions. Multiple surveys show that oftentimes even well-rounded and successful boomers, who also have families of their own, have hard times talking to their elderly parents about aging. In fact, the majority of adult children have no idea what their parents would want them to do with their wealth in the event of a disability or their passing away.
If your parents already have an actual estate plan (just a will doesn’t count), that is great and probably only requires periodic review. However, if you are concerned that they have not protected their assets, you may need to broach the subject with them. It may be a tough conversation, but the rewards far outweigh the potential risk and confusion of not having a plan. What can possibly be better than creating peace of mind for your loved ones?
So, how do you start this conversation? How do you approach those who are used to being in charge of the situation and who have been taking care of the entire family for most of their lives?
Because each family is different, there is no uniform script. However, there are some general rules that are often applicable to the majority of situations.
- Figure Out What Your Parents Want. Before making any suggestions for your parents, it is important to understand their general attitudes and goals. Do they want to pass their property to the family? Are they aware of the probate process and its complications and costs? Do they want to maintain complete control over their assets during their lifetime? All of these questions will help guide your conversation in the right direction.
- Start With An Example. Modern media does a good job covering the most controversial and scandalous events and stories. Whether it is a story about Terri Schaivo’s case, or one of the numerous reports about Michael Jackson’s heritage, there are some good lines to open the tough conversation.
- Share Your Plan. Lead by example. You may create your own “aging plan” with the help of estate planning attorneys. Then ask your parents to do the same.
- Team Up With Your Siblings. It is also very important that you work with your brothers and sisters while figuring out your parents’ planning. Bringing in the whole family will not only illuminate some possible misunderstandings, but it will also be a powerful tool of persuasion.
- Make Your Parents Your Partners. Many baby boomers make the mistake of thinking of their caretaking responsibilities as a role reversal. That is a formula for failure. Instead of taking the lead, make your parents a part of the team. They still need to have as much independence as possible and your job is to help them weigh all of the options available.
We understand, each family has their own unique dynamics and situations. However, it should be obvious that without a clear plan of attack the burden will shift to the surviving spouse or kids. Unfortunately, this can add additional stress to an already difficult situation. Moreover, a lack of planning often leads to unnecessary tension and family discord when it comes time to settle the estate. Asset Protection Plans not only save thousands of dollars for families but also grant peace of mind to everyone involved knowing all the tough decisions have been made. So, don’t take the easy way out and bury your head in the sand when it comes to planning for Mom– talk to her about planning for her family’s future!