As our parents age, many of us grow concerned about a future without them. This may be especially true if they don’t have an estate plan. Sure, estate planning is about figuring out how assets will be dispersed upon one’s passing, but it can deal with a much broader array of issues than that. Estate planning can dictate how your parents want their healthcare and financial decisions to be made in the event that they become incapacitated, and they can even specify how they want their final arrangements to play out.

In far too many cases, though, individuals are kept in the dark about their parents’ estate plan. They might not even know if one exists. This can put your parents and their estate at risk. It can lead to unexpected and unintended consequences upon their passing, which can spur family conflict. We understand that discussing end of life planning can be uncomfortable, especially when you’re not the topic of conversation, but it’s oftentimes necessary to ensure that all estate planning matters play out as intended.

But how do you go about talking about these matters with your parents? Consider the following:

  1. Don’t rush it: Estate planning is a delicate and sometimes complex issue to discuss. If you try to deal with everything at one time, your parents might turn off and tune out, making it all the more difficult to ensure that they and they estate are protected.
  2. Be honest with other family members: Let your siblings and others in your family know your intent to speak to your parents about estate planning. This will better protect you from allegations of coercion or undue influence, thereby preventing conflict later down the road. It might even provide you with additional support.
  3. Take notes: Your parents might have a detailed vision for the future of their estate and family, which can be hard to remember. To ensure that you encapsulate their wishes, think about jotting down some notes that you can revisit with them at a later time.
  4. Be empathetic: Bringing up the topic of death with your parents can be enormously challenging. But thinking about it yourself can be even more troublesome. Recognize the difficult position your parents in while acknowledging their anxiety and fears. Be compassionate and you’ll find that you’re parents will be more receptive to having this conversation.
  5. Focus on what really matters: What is most important to your parents? Is it to maintain family harmony? Ensure that a farm is run properly? That members of the family achieve certain successes? Their identified values can help them focus the direction of their estate plan and guide the estate planning discussion.
  6. Talk to your parents while they’re healthy: If you wait too long to have estate planning conversations with your parents, then there may not be enough time to bring their wishes to fruition. It’s also easier to begin the conversation when the end isn’t imminent.
  7. Think about how best to start the discussion: To ease into a discussion about estate planning, you need to be careful about how you frame it. Simply jumping to the topic of death can be jarring and off-putting. Therefore, you might want to talk about your worries, such as not knowing what you’re parents would want if they were suddenly unable to make decisions for themselves, or other situations where an individual’s wishes were unknown upon passing.

Estate planning and end-of-life planning can be difficult topics to address. Yet, they are of critical importance. Therefore, if you need additional guidance on these matters, or your parents are ready to take the steps needed to create their estate plan, then it might be time to reach out to an attorney who can help provide guidance throughout the process.