Last week I talked about wills and the danger of not having one. One benefit to planning your estate that I didn’t mention is how it creates an opening to talk to your parents about their estate planning.
This can be difficult for a couple of reasons. A lot of parents don’t want to talk to their adult children about money. It’s a role-reversal that they are not comfortable doing. Another important factor is that people just hate talking about their own mortality. Your parents may need added encouragement and reassurance in the form of a sit-down talk with you.
If that is the route you want to go, find a good place and time to bring it up. Don’t try to kill two birds with one stone and do it at a holiday dinner — which are often tense times already.
Try to find an opening, like your own experience planning your estate. You could say, “I’m thinking about life insurance or getting long-term care insurance for myself. Do you have it? What do you think about it? We’ve never talked about this. Maybe this is the time.” If they don’t want to talk about it, or if you didn’t get to talk about everything you wanted to talk about, keep the door open and just say, “Can we talk about this again soon?”
The consequences of poor estate planning were evident to me with a client years ago. The husband passed away, after having been the sole bill payer, banker, and investor for the family. The children had always been afraid to bring up anything about how to run the household, or any insurance or trust issues, with the father — because he never wanted to talk about it.
When he passed away, his children had to scramble to take care of their mother. It took a lot of time to get everything organized before any of their father’s financial advisors and bankers would talk to them. I often wonder if the husband would have done anything differently if he could see the hardship his family endured to settle the estate.
It really comes down to the fact that you never know when your time is going to come, no matter your age. Maybe you’ll live forever and never need a will — but it’s a good thing to have on the off chance that you die someday.