How Do I Bring Up the Topic of Estate Planning to My Parents?

In Worcester, just as everywhere else in the nation, there is a tendency for people to put off estate planning.  Elder law attorneys, like Kristina Vickstrom, recognize that there are multiple factors that lead people to procrastinate when it comes to the estate planning process.

One of the biggest factors, of course, is that most people don’t want to consider their own mortality, and estate planning forces you to do just that.  When it comes to adult children, we are just as guilty of not wanting to think about the inevitability of losing our parents, and therefore, we choose not to push them.

There are other complex reasons that come into play as well.  An adult child who wants to encourage his or her parents to set up wills and trusts may worry that the parent or other family members will mistake concern for greed.  If the parent has remarried, then even more complex family dynamics can come into play, with the adult child remaining quiet on the subject rather than creating waves.

Elder law attorneys understand these considerations and so many more, but we also know what happens when advanced planning isn’t given enough attention.  When a parent passes away or becomes incapacitated without an estate plan, the fallout can be devastating.  It may fall to the courts to determine who should be given power over medical and/or financial decisions for the parent, and the court’s opinion often does not reflect the wishes of those involved.

Really, having a plan in advance of a tragic event is the best way to ensure it will be handled according to your parents’ desires; and framing the request in this way can be helpful.  At a time in life when they are finding themselves with less and less control, it can be reassuring to know that some of the most important decisions regarding health, money, and property are theirs to make; and that when they can no longer make those decisions, substitute decision makers of their choosing are ready to step in.

In order for this to happen, though, parents need to meet with their elder law attorney while they are still able to make sound decisions and legally sign documents.  Again, most people don’t want to think about losing their mental acuity, but it can be very common.

Creating wills and trusts and setting up powers of attorney and a health care proxy can give your parent the sense of control that they may feel slipping away.  During your discussions with your parent, it can also be helpful to point out that estate planning:

  • Allows them to determine who they want to have in charge of their money
  • Provides the opportunity to designate who will receive which assets (or none at all)
  • Keeps the courts out of the process, or limits their involvement, saving time, money, and hassle for those left behind
  • Ensures that THEIR wishes are the ones that matter
  • Minimizes the taxes that will be paid out of the estae

Life is busy, and it’s easy to say that estate planning is something that we’ll get to “later.”  However, “later” doesn’t always come when you think it will.  Instead of leaving the decisions (and potential hassles) in someone else’s hands, empower your parents to have a say in their future and the future of their family. Contact Vickstrom Law today for more information about encouraging your parents to handle their estate plan and to set up a consultation.

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