Sometimes the best way to break the ice to start a conversation with aging parents about their plans for the future is to start by discussing your own. Do you want to know about their wills or retirement finances? Start by explaining your own plan and how you’ve decided to set up your estate, and then ask your parents what they’ve done for themselves.
Of course, it is hard to start there unless you have gotten your own planning done. However, assuming you have, the conversation may feel awkward the first time you start it, says the Daily Local News in the article “Ask your folks about their financial plans,” but you need to get to where everyone is comfortable having the conversation. Your parents’ plans might impact yours, and vice-versa. So, it’s good to talk “early and often” about how they are planning for retirement and the high costs of retirement, including health care.
If something happens to their parents, the children are the most likely ones to step in and take charge, whether it’s caring for a surviving parent or stepparent, or taking care of the entire estate. The more you know in advance, the better equipped you’ll be.
Your first real job is to have a good talk about saving for retirement. Ask your parents what they did, or are doing, about 401(k) contributions. This will give you insight into how well-prepared and knowledgeable they are about retirement savings. If you are house hunting, that’s an excellent opportunity to get your parents talking about their retirement plan. Do you need to buy a home with an in-law suite in mind? It’s not a bad question to ask. It shows that you are thinking about their future needs.
Untangling an estate when no advance planning has been done can tear a family apart. That’s the last thing you or your parents want. Talking openly with them about money, trusts, wills, life insurance, and advance medical directives will give you an idea about what they have or have not done to plan for the future. It may spur them on to move forward with plans that they’ve procrastinated on.
Even if you learn that they haven’t done any planning and don’t have a will, that is better than not knowing until it’s too late. If you learn that this is the case, you can start educating them about what will happen if they don’t meet with an estate planning attorney. You can offer to take them to meet your estate planning attorney or offer to get them a few names so that they can decide who they are most comfortable with.
Starting a family and setting up your own estate plan is another opportunity to start a conversation with your aging parents about what they did and what their thoughts are about your plans. Their family may have never done any estate planning, and they might have more than a few family horror stories to share. In that case, you can help them change the family’s dynamic by helping them to take a different path.
Reference: Barchart (April 16, 2019) “Ask your folks about their financial plans”