How to talk to your aging parents about estate planning

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How To Talk To Your Aging Parents About Estate Planning

Discussing the future can be easy when you’re making fun vacation plans or are looking forward to a significant milestone such as marriage or the birth of a baby. But when it comes to difficult topics – like what will happen after your parents pass away – those conversations are much harder to begin.

However, adults with elderly parents need to have these conversations. Not only for your sake but your parents’ sake as well. When you talk about crucial financial and memorial details, you’re preparing your parents – and your entire family – for the future.

Help your parents with estate planning by separating the discussion into four easily digestible parts:

  1. Legacy – Many people want to leave something behind for after they die. Your parents may want to leave behind donations to a charity, or even start their own. They may want to create a scholarship for their alma mater. Discussing what your parents may want to build for their legacy is a great way to start the conversation and consider their wishes.
  2. Financial assets – Estate planning can’t be complete without a discussion of money. Be careful with how you approach this topic as you don’t want your parents to think you’re simply after their money. Explain to them the importance of putting all their investments and savings to ensure there’s nothing left out upon their death.
  3. Physical assets – Everything from your parents’ home to your mother’s jewelry should be a part of this category. It can be difficult deciding which item to leave to which relative after divorce, but your parents should start thinking about this sooner rather than later. That will help minimize the amount of division they’ll have to go through in the future and hopefully avoid complicated probate litigation.
  4. Legal documentation – Estate planning is not just a discussion. There need to be legal documents that outline all your parents’ wishes. Plus, you should consider asking your parents about creating trusts, assigning the power of attorneys, or an executor. These critical roles require legal contracts before they are applicable.

Talking to your parents about their death can be very painful and upsetting for everyone involved. It’s essential to be patient, considerate and gentle when approaching these sensitive topics. Remind your parents about the importance of preparation. The more prepared your parents are for the future, the better it will be for your whole family.


Michael Ritigstein is a Founding Partner of the firm concentrating his efforts in supporting the firm's litigation, corporate and estate matters. Mr. Ritigstein graduated from the University of Delaware in 1996 and Seton Hall University School of Law in 2000. In 2007 he received a Masters of Law in Taxation with a concentration in Estate Planning, from Temple University's Beasley School of Law.

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