Talking to Your Elderly Loved Ones about their Estate Plan

As an estate planning attorney I am frequently asked how to go about approaching the subject of estate planning with elderly parents.  This can be a tough conversation but it is certainly an important and valuable one to have, for both generations.

The following is a list of typical questions to begin the dialogue:

• Do you have an estate plan?
• Is it a trust-based estate plan?
• When was the last time you reviewed or updated your estate plan documents?
• If you have a Trust are your assets correctly titled into the Trust?
• Have you designated someone to be in charge of your financial matters if you cannot do so for yourself?
• Who is your attorney? Accountant? Financial Advisor?
• When is the last time you had a complete physical?

I encourage anyone with older parents or other elderly loved ones to consider approaching them with these questions.

This conversation should ultimately be beneficial for everyone involved. It is meant to be very empowering for the elder to be able to communicate his or her goals, desires and values to someone trustworthy who will be there during any difficult times in the future.

The dialogue will hopefully give you the peace of mind in knowing that your loved one has made the appropriate arrangements and also give you an insight into how he or she has planned for the future.

Don’t be afraid that you will seem greedy or that they will think you are the grim reaper.  Most likely they will be grateful you broached the subject.

If you are still nervous about how you might appear in talking about this – one way to start is by having your own estate plan created or updated and using that experience as the starting point for this conversation.  For example, “Hey mom/dad I finally had my estate plan put in place and it was such a relief to have that done, have you done your estate plan?”

However you choose to go about having the conversation about how your loved ones have organized their affairs, do it sooner than later.  The last thing you want is to be in the middle of a crisis and not have a clue of what they have done – if anything…


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