Tough Topics: When and How to Talk to Your Parents About Their Estate Plan


When our beloved parents enter their golden years, we have a responsibility to care for them. Much of this involves providing companionship and helping them when they get sick. However, it also involves helping them plan for when they pass. Despite the uncomfortable nature of the conversation, it’s essential to talk about estate planning. Here are some tips on when and how to talk to your parents about their estate plan.

When to Talk to Your Parents About Estate Planning

Once Healed From an Injury or Illness

A health scare has a way of forcing people to think about their death. If your parent experiences an injury or illness, this opens the door to talk about what would happen if the issue had turned more serious.

Of course, you want to wait until your parent fully heals from their illness. You don’t want to add more stress than necessary.

When They Bring It Up

If you keep your ears open, you may notice your parents starting the conversation on their own. If your parent mentions leaving something to you or your children, ask questions to learn more about their thoughts and if they have a written will. You may be surprised at how receptive your parent will be to the conversation when you talk casually.

How to Talk to Your Parents About Estate Planning

Don’t Become Invasive

You didn’t like when your parent poked in your life when you were younger, and you should give them the freedom and independence they deserve as well.

When you ask questions, explain that you simply want to know their wishes to ensure that you follow them accurately. Also, express that you simply want to know about a written will to ensure that their wishes are legally upheld. However, if they’re not comfortable sharing the details of what is in the documents, don’t push. All you need to know for now is where to find the necessary documents in the event that they are needed.

Include Siblings and Other Relatives

While you don’t need to get every single relative involved, it can help to have your siblings or close relatives with you when you have this conversation with your parents. Part of the reason for this is that it can help prevent fighting down the line if everyone knows where they stand in the plans.

Get an Estate Planning Lawyer Involved

You and your family should set things up to keep things as simple as possible when the time comes to celebrate your parents’ lives. To keep all financial manners situated so that everyone can grieve, have your parents meet with an estate planning lawyer to get everything in writing. If things don’t get established in writing, conversations won’t stand up in court.

Create the Will

The one key piece for your parents’ entire estate plan is going to be their will. This is the document that states all of their wishes for what they want to happen after they pass away. This document can be very simple or in-depth, depending on their specific needs, and a lawyer will help ensure that all the bases are covered and that it is legally binding.

Why use an estate planning lawyer to create your will? Their experience with creating wills over the years is going to help bring up issues you may not have thought of. For example, they will ask what will happen to personal property, who will be the guardians of any underage dependents, and what your parents’ wishes would be for medical procedures if they are unable to make a decision themselves. They can even help your parents make the hard decisions so that there is something documented in the will, even if your parents decide to alter it later.

Name Beneficiaries

There is no point in having a will if there is no one designated as the beneficiaries. This is an area where an estate planning lawyer can help since they are able to help with the legal language necessary to list beneficiaries. It’s usually expected that each child will get the same amount. This helps prevent later litigation between children. 

However, in some cases, your parents may have different desires. For example, they may split up assets based on needs rather than equal divisions. An estate planning lawyer can help ensure that desires are enforceable.

Another thing to consider is underage beneficiaries. If your parents are planning to leave money or belongings to children or grandchildren who are still minors, they could run into trouble.  A lawyer can help set it up so that members of your extended family would be the temporary beneficiaries until the beneficiaries are old enough to receive their inheritance.

Offer Future Support

It is a good idea to encourage your parents to use a lawyer because they have someone they can turn to later on when you need to make changes or your estate becomes much more complicated later in life. For example, receiving an inheritance of their own could greatly change their own estate planning needs as those new assets need to be factored into their will. A change of family situation, such as going through a divorce or having a family member pass away, can also change who will be a beneficiary and what assets they will receive after you pass away.

If your parents were blessed enough in this life to accumulate wealth, protect them by having their wishes clarified in a will and by helping them figure out their estate plan.