Talking about estate planning with elderly parents can be tough. Whether they’ve never considered its importance or have outdated plans, it can be a sensitive subject.
Most people don’t want to even think about making an estate plan, as it means thinking about their death. And no one wants to seem greedy or eager to inherit from their parents.
But estate planning is a critical task that can protect family wealth and ensure an estate is distributed for the good of all – resulting in fair outcomes, with minimal fighting and wealth protection.
Here’s some advice on how to discuss estate planning with elderly parents:
How Can I Talk to My Parents About Estate Planning?
- Do your Estate Planning Homework
If you’re going to take the lead, make sure you know what you’re talking about. We’re not saying you need to be an expert, but having a clear understanding of why estate planning is needed, can help the conversation go much smoother. You won’t get caught out on their questions and can help advise them on their concerns.
The essential areas of estate planning to consider include:
- Power of attorney
- Financial decision
- Medicaid planning
- Advance directives
- Asset protection.
If you have any siblings, you should ask them to participate in the conversation. Doing so can avoid causing tension with your siblings and ensure the discussion is a family affair.
Fairness will be a critical part of how the discussion goes, so be sure to include all stakeholders.
Secondly, you’ll also ensure any claims of ‘undue influence’ are avoided and that any potentially pressuring siblings don’t take on their subject alone.
Finally, your parents are more likely to take the subject seriously if all their children are present.
For many families, timing is everything when it comes to tense conversations. If that’s true for you, you’ll know it all too well.
Don’t bring up the conversation while their minds are set on a busy task. Try asking your parents if you can talk to them about something important at a later hour.
However, all estate planning attorneys will tell you – the best time is now.
Nothing is certain in life and kicking the topic down the road for later, again and again, increases the risk of these important life decisions never being addressed.
Once you’ve sat down to have the conversation, it can be tempting to go all-in and tell your parents what to do. But remember this is as much about your parents’ views as your desires. Be sure to remain calm and listen to them to avoid things getting heated fast.
Start at the beginning by asking what estate plans have been made or what is important to them. If they’ve missed out on areas like appointing a power of attorney, long-term care insurance and critical legal documents, then circle back.
If your parents have previously made estate plans, they might be outdated. Law changes, marriages, new children and asset sales and purchases can drastically change things.
During your conversation, consider asking your parents whether their legal documents have been updated in recent years. Have they considered:
- New grandchildren
- Financial account changes
- Are the powers of attorney choices still correct?
- Are their health insurance details up to date?
For example, child-specific trust rules established when you were a minor may not be outdated. As adult children, you can now take on new responsibilities.
Ensure you cover both sides of why estate planning is important. If your parents are uneducated on the subject, let them know that there are risks of not having any legal documents in place.
For example, without a will, then intestacy laws will determine how the estate is shared. Or, if they don’t have any medical directives, then medical decisions will be stressful and complicated.
Have They Considered Trusts?
You should also focus on what can be gained through estate planning. For example, a living trust can allow wealth to be shared over time and at predetermined milestones, or asset protection can be used to prevent creditors from claiming the majority of the estate’s value.
It’s doubtful your family will reach a conclusion and put plans in place in one conversation. When discussing estate planning with elderly parents, use the first conversation as a starting point and branch out from there in the future.
Focus on the essentials on day one:
- Where are they at with their estate plans?
- What do they know and don’t know?7
- What are their priorities and what are the family’s primary concerns?
It may be a good idea to consult a professional estate planning lawyer, as having someone external involved can keep the ball rolling.
Family relationships can have a big impact on estate planning rules. While divorced parents may feel no different to you than married parents, or your step-father may be considered your ‘real’ father, the law will think differently.
This is why wills are so critical and require careful planning. Without a will, intestate succession rules would mean a stepchild gets nothing. Do your research and consult an estate planning lawyer if there are complicated legal relationships and mixed marriages.
When discussing estate planning with elderly parents, you must cover health care decisions. Doing so can ensure your parents’ wishes are legally binding and that there is minimal stress on loved ones in the event of an accident, serious illness or death.
Advance Health Care Directives
Advance health care directives are legal documents that state the wishes for end-of-life care and decision-making if the individual is unable to decide for themselves.
- How would they like life support to be handled?
- Do they have organ donation preferences?
- Do they want to receive nursing home care or have in-home care?
- What are their treatment and medical care wishes?
Health Care Proxy
A health care proxy (also referred to as a durable power of attorney for health care) allows you to appoint an individual to make healthcare decisions on your behalf.
Your parents should appoint someone they trust and with the compassion and mental strength to handle the pressure, to avoid tensions in the family and the appointment of someone unsuitable for the role.
Power of Attorney
Similarly, what happens to your parents’ finances and legal affairs if they cannot make decisions anymore?
Appointing a power of attorney can allow your parents to have someone sign documents, manage their finances and make estate planning decisions should they become sick, incapacitated or unable to be present.
Medicaid planning can help parents structure their estate to increase the chances of being accepted into the Medicaid program. Through trusts, asset transfers and other structuring ideas, you can ensure eligibility to preserve family wealth for the benefit of all.
An estate planning elder law attorney is highly advised for anyone struggling to make estate plans, regardless of their estate size. However, it is especially advised for those with complicated or significant assets and estate value.
Having an expert on your side can also avoid tensions and conflicts in the discussions that may arise should you take the process alone.
Our experienced attorneys at Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, P.A can help guide you through the process, draft documents and consider ideas to protect your family and your family’s wealth.
Reasons Why Families Should Have Estate Planning Talks Now
The pandemic woke us all up to the unexpected twists of life. At any moment, someone we love can be taken forever. Of course, no one wants to think about such bleak scenarios, but acting in advance will prevent unnecessary pain and financial loss later.
Many adult children might be planning for their own retirement. Without knowing how your inheritance is set-up or how your parents will be cared for in their later years can derail plans.
Leave it too late, and creditors, greedy distant relatives, estate taxes and laws can all put the hard-earned family wealth at risk.
Contact an Elder Law Estate Planning Attorney in Florida
If you’re an adult child or parent looking for legal advice regarding your estate plans, then our Florida probate and estate planning attorneys can help.
With decades of experience, our law firm regularly helps Florida residents start estate planning with elderly parents.
Feel free to contact us today for a free consultation.