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It's time to start talking to aging parents about their estate planning

Many individuals who are in their 30s, 40s and 50s may have concerns about their aging parents' health and general wellbeing. While completely normal, too often adult children fail to voice their concerns directly with a parent until a major health or life event occurs which forces the conversation or a major decision. 

Even as an adult, an individual may feel uncomfortable discussing financial matters with his or her parents. This is often especially true in families where money has always been a taboo subject. While it can be uncomfortable, individuals with aging parents are advised to take action and muster up the courage to discuss their parents' current estate plan as well as each parent's wishes and plans for the future. 

Much about the success of such a conversation will be determined by one's approach. If, for example, an individual mentions that a friend's father was recently diagnosed with dementia and how difficult the situation has become, one's own parents may be more willing to share their own plans, wishes and even concerns. The ultimate goal of this initial conversation is to simply crack the door to what may end up being several conversations. 

Some questions that are good to bring up include those related to one's parents' estate plan. Do they have a will? If so, who is the executor of the will? What about a living will and durable power of attorney? It's also important to gain an understanding about parents' financial standing. This includes finding out income sources and amounts as well as any outstanding debts or other financial obligations. Lastly, information related to each parent's health care and medical needs and providers should be discussed. Do one's parents have medical insurance or rely mainly on Medicare? What about long-term care insurance or some other assets to account for long-term care needs?

Yes, talking to one's parent or parents about these estate planning topics can be difficult. However, having the foresight to talk and learn about such matters now can help save one a lot of time, headaches and heartaches in the future. 

Source: Forbes, "4 Financial Issues You Need To Discuss With Aging Parents," Carolyn Rosenblatt, Aug. 19, 2013

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