Remember having “the talk” with your parents in middle school? That awkward conversation you had with your mom or dad where they tried to explain the facts of life to you while you desperately searched for an excuse to end the conversation? Well get ready to have another “talk” with your parents, only this time, you’ll be discussing their end-of-life planning, not the birds and the bees.
What does this “talk” need to cover? Generally, this conversation needs to address the issues surrounding your parents’ twilight years, such as retirement planning, nursing home preferences, funeral arrangements, wills and trusts, powers of attorney, and possible Medicaid planning. Specifically, an estate planning and elder law attorney can identify your parents’ unique estate planning and elder law planning issues and assist with implementing their end-of-life planning strategies. To have a successful “talk” with your parents, consider using this four-part strategy:
Don’t wait for tragedy to strike
Don’t wait for tragedy to strike before having the conversation. I often see that families put off talking about these issues until an unexpected illness or death shocks the family, at which time it may be too late to do anything.
Have the conversation with your parents right away, while they are still healthy and able to make informed decisions for themselves. This becomes even more important if your parents are older or if you think a parent is showing signs of memory problems or is not feeling well on a regular basis. Having these discussions in advance can mitigate problems down the road and can remove any feelings of doubt you may have if you need to make a decision on their behalf.
Such topics are sensitive and your parents may try to avoid having the conversation with you altogether. Schedule a specific time and place with your parents to have this conversation so that they can be prepared for it. If you unexpectedly spring the discussion on them, they may get defensive or shut down. If your family will be in town for the holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas can be ideal times to schedule the family meeting. You might also consider getting your parents’ attorney and CPA involved in the meeting.
Make estate planning documents a priority
Not every family needs a complicated trust or an aggressive Medicaid planning strategy. Your parents’ estate planning attorney can assess your parents’ unique situation and make a recommendation for what they might need. If your parents feel overwhelmed and choose to do nothing, you need to at least advocate that they implement or update their Last Wills and Testaments, Financial Powers of Attorney, and Health Care Powers of Attorney and Living Wills. These are the basic estate planning documents that every person needs in place, and having them will make everyone’s lives much easier. If your parents don’t have an attorney or are unable to leave their home, help them find an estate planning and elder law attorney who is willing to come to their home and will handle their situation in the safety of their home.
Address finances carefully
Many in your parents’ generation are cautious and secretive about their finances. Don’t assume that your parents will be comfortable sharing details of their wealth or debts with you. If they aren’t comfortable with sharing this information, don’t be pushy. Simply find out the names of their financial advisor, attorney, and CPA so you know who to contact in case of a financial emergency and encourage your parents to do elder law, financial, and estate planning with them.
Don’t be overly persuasive
Remember that this conversation is about planning for what is best for your parents in their twilight years, not maximizing your inheritance. You may need to walk a fine line between arguing a position you feel is right for them and not coming off as being greedy. You don’t want to ruin your relationship with your parents because they think you’re more concerned about their money than what they want to do regarding their nursing home needs in the future. I recommend that you discuss what nursing home they would want to go to if the need arose unexpectedly and suddenly (i.e. rehab following a stroke or a fall).
Also remember that your parents will be feeling vulnerable, so if you disagree with something they feel strongly about, respectfully present your arguments and recommend that they speak with their attorney and CPA for professional advice.
Much like in middle school, having “the talk” with your parents will be uncomfortable for everyone involved. However, having open, respectful, and honest dialogue with your parents will give them peace of mind that you are looking out for their best interests.
Bill Hesch is an attorney, CPA, and PFS (Personal Financial Specialist) who is licensed in Ohio and Kentucky and helps clients get peace of mind with their tax, financial, and estate planning matters. He focuses his practice in the areas of elder law, corporate law, Medicaid planning, tax law, estate planning, and probate in the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky areas. His practice area includes Hamilton County, Butler County, Warren County, and Clermont County in Ohio, and Campbell County, Kenton County, and Boone County in Kentucky.
(Legal Disclaimer: Bill Hesch submits this blog to provide general information about the firm and its services. Information in this blog is not intended as legal advice, and any person receiving information on this page should not act on it without consulting professional legal counsel. While at times Bill Hesch may render an opinion, Bill Hesch does not offer legal advice through this blog. Bill Hesch does not enter into an attorney-client relationship with any online reader via online or print contact.)