A Wells Fargo survey found that nearly half of all Americans would rather discuss funeral plans than financial plans with their parents.
The discomfort about broaching these and similar topics can arise over concerns about appearing to expect an inheritance. Adult children might also wonder if they're ready to handle responsibilities like caring for aging parents. And they could fear their parents will overreact or they will lead their parents to think they believe they're experiencing health or financial troubles.
To ensure you won't need to guess in an emergency, find out your parents' financial, health-care, and legacy plans -- whether they're already in place or should be considered.
How to Broach Sensitive Topics Carefully and Respectfully
Before you tackle a potentially difficult conversation, seek to understand your parents' values. Ask them about their priorities and what matters most to them. Knowing their values helps you frame the discussion while you respect their wishes.
You may want to address each elder care and estate planning issue at different times. It's easier to discuss them when they're not urgent and your parents aren't in a crisis.
The easiest times to broach these subjects may coincide with certain events. For example, your parents might mention that someone they know has had a medical procedure, or they may want to talk about retirement or an upcoming trip. Another approach is to discuss your own situation and plans. Sharing your plans can relieve their concerns about their future and show you're prepared to handle the responsibilities involved in their care.
Whenever you hold these discussions, choose a private, casual place, like their home, rather than a group setting, which could be intimidating, embarrassing, or distracting.
What to Know About Your Parents' Financial Matters, Health, and Future Plans
These are the main talking points to cover to see whether your parents need help. If you haven't already done so, arrange to meet with any of their advisers, too.
- What they own and owe
- Their financial professionals: accountant, financial planner, or insurance agent; if they need one, it's an opportunity to connect with one.
- Where they store their financial documents
- Any illnesses or conditions
- Current doctors and other health-care professionals
- Any medications they take or pharmacies they use
Future Care and Legacy:
- How they want to be cared for if they can't care for themselves (For example, at home or in a facility)
- Potential long-term care options and costs.
- End-of-life care and plans: an advance medical directive (a living will, a power of attorney, and a health care proxy); a will or trust; their legacy: how they want to be remembered/who they want to receive assets; their funeral plans
Listening Actively and Assessing the Situation in Everyone's Best Interest
Though your parents might see you as a child, talk to them as a peer. But before you talk, put yourself in their shoes. They could think they're burdening you, and if they need help, it could be hard for them to admit.
Discussing sensitive subjects can also spark feelings of sorrow or anger. Be prepared for these reactions. If you bring up a topic and Mom or Dad resist, stay positive and supportive while you let them make their own decisions. Show that you care about their well-being. It's not a time to address any family grievances, either; emphasize that you're there to help everyone through:
- Hearing how your parents answer your questions. Respect, reflect, and validate: repeat what you heard to confirm you understand their views and feelings.
- Taking stock and taking notes; reading their documents to get the bigger picture.
- Being transparent with other family members; updating them on the situation.
- Remembering that these are your parents' plans and letting them make decisions while you voice your concerns.
These conversations could be difficult, as can the thought of your parents getting sick or passing away. But if you can talk openly with your parents about their finances, well-being, and future and secure plans for them, everyone concerned could feel relieved - and it may help you avoid an even more difficult situation down the road.
Discussing these topics might lead to a conversation about your parents' estate plan. Our experienced attorneys would be happy to help you start the discussion. Call (207) 377-6966 or contact us online.