Are you unsure how to talk to your elderly parents about estate planning? Maybe you know they have not done anything, and you worry about them. Maybe you fear that they have made some mistakes. Perhaps you just feel curious because they have not shared any of their plans with you and you want to avoid a difficult situation in the future.
If you do not know how to bring it up these delicate matters, you are not alone. When asked, about 43 percent of parents admit that they have never sat down with their adult children to talk about long-term care planning. Another 34 percent claimed they had never spoken in detail with their kids about retirement and living expenses. The parents in question were all 55 years of age or older.
Estate planning is something everyone needs to do eventually. That's just the nature of aging and getting closer to the end of life. So, why do so many people avoid these conversations?
Children feel greedy
Often, children do not like to start the conversations because they worry about looking greedy or entitled. It can be awkward asking your aging parents about their wills and estates, as it may sound like you are just counting down the days until their resources become yours.
It is important to start this conversation by talking about the realities of the situation, how discussing the plans can help everyone to be on the same page and alleviate any worries you may have about your parents' plan. This way, you focus on your family, not on what you can get.
People don't like talking about money
Asking about money is one of society's few remaining taboos. When is the last time you asked someone how much money they made? It's just not something we do because it makes us — and others — uncomfortable. By the same token, children feel embarrassed to ask their parents about assets, while parents sometimes feel embarrassed to reveal what they have if they haven't managed those assets properly.
Parents want to keep control
Parents may not like having these conversations because they feel like they're ceding control of their assets, and even their lives, to their children. They want to keep that control and independence as long as they can, which is a natural response.
Death is also a taboo subject
Discussing death, whether it's their own or others, makes people uncomfortable. Nobody wants to contemplate the end of life. Children don't want to remind their, parents of the inevitable or worse, sound as if they're counting down the days. Everyone avoids the topic even though it's part of the human experience for everyone. However, the taboo is strong enough that some families just never bring it up.
Making a plan
Of course, thinking about death and estate matters is critical. Planning must be done in advance. Parents and children should understand their options and rights, even if the conversations are uncomfortable to initiate.