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Should I discuss estate planning with my parents?

Estate planning is one of these topics (think relinquishing a driver's license or making long-term care arrangements) that can cause difficult conversations between adult children and their elderly parents. For one thing, your parents might get the impression that you are being greedy when you are just trying to help them. The reality is, though, if you have to ask yourself whether to have this conversation with your parents, you probably should. Here are some tips to make the talk go over well.

Do your own estate planning

Go through the estate planning process on your own so that your parents know you are being sincere when you emphasize the importance of arrangements such as an AB living trust or a will that passes muster. At the very least, you gain an appreciation of the many issues that can be involved, and you have the opportunity to get your affairs in order.

Plan the conversation

Usually, it is best to plan the conversation rather than decide something like, "Okay, on Sunday, no matter what, I'm going to tell Dad that he needs estate planning." Instead, reach out with something along the lines of, "Hey, Dad, I'm going through estate planning and thought you would like to find out more about the process. Can we talk about it on Sunday?"

Frame the benefits for your parents

Phrasing words sensitively is important in estate planning conversations, so avoid questions such as, "Is there money available in case you have to go into a nursing home?" An often effective tactic is to talk about how estate planning benefits your parents. For example, it can ensure that a family philosophy is passed on, that a special needs child or relative is taken care of, or that your parents are able to qualify for Medicaid without losing assets. If you are going through the process yourself, you can list the advantages you have experienced.

Put yourself first if necessary

Each parent-child relationship is different, but in general, parents dislike the thought of being a burden on their children. If other estate planning tactics fail, you may need to turn to something such as, "Mom, I'm worried. I want to make sure you get to stay at home your entire life like you want, but I just don't know how long we can stretch your money. I'm having a hard time sleeping. Can we discuss this further Thursday after I get home from work?"

Estate planning is frequently about much more than drawing up a will. An attorney can guide you and/or your parents through the process.

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