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Tips for talking estate planning with your parents

There are two topics that many individuals do their best to avoid talking about: money and the end of their life.

This was clearly shown in a 2016 study conducted by Fidelity Investments. The study found that many families disagree about when it is necessary to discuss finances and end-of-life concerns. And nearly 43% of parents reported that they had not had conversations with their adult children about these topics.

Having these conversations is never easy–for both parents and their children. However, they are necessary. So, how can you start this conversation with your parents?

First, why is this conversation important?

Unfortunately, merely having an estate plan does not magically resolve any issues your family could face after the death of a loved one. Your parents may have outlined their wishes in a will or established powers of attorney in compliance with California law, but while they are still healthy, they should still take the time to explain their wishes clearly. This can:

  • Reduce your uncertainty about their future, as well as your own
  • Allow you to protect your loved one's best interests and needs better
  • Make the estate administration and probate process easier for your family

So, here are some critical tips to help you approach this conversation.

1. Set up a time to talk

It is likely not a good strategy to spring this conversation on your loved ones. Scheduling a specific time to talk in a comfortable environment when no one is busy can help ease the stress on everyone. 

Planning ahead of time also gives both you and your parents time to prepare:

  • You can find a good way to open the conversation and determine what you want to say, as well as how you want to say it.
  • Your parents have time to decide what they want to say as well and collect the necessary documents.

2. Try to keep the conversation positive

Discussing estate planning is not usually easy. And your parents might not be forthcoming. So, how do you keep such a conversation positive? It can help to: 

  • Ensure your parents and their wishes are the center of the conversation
  • Concentrate on their values, as well as the values you share
  • Explain that you want to know this information so that you can protect them

Genuinely listening and empathizing with your parents is essential. Talking about the end of your life is not easy–so, treat your parents how you would want to be treated while talking about these difficult topics.

3. Most of all, be patient

While these conversations are important, you should not pressure your parents into having them when they are not ready. Starting this conversation slowly and continuing it over time is helpful. Know that you do not have to dive into the most challenging topics right away.

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