• McNickle & Bonner

How to Talk to Your Elderly Parents about Estate Planning

End-of-life conversations are rarely fun. They are emotional, and many people find it comforting to put them off until too late.


It's understandable; you don't want to think about when your parents are no longer here, and you don't want to sound like you want them gone. But the sad truth is, your parents will die one day. Without a proper estate plan, their death will leave you more financially and emotionally overwhelmed.



Here are steps to make an estate-planning discussion seamless and effective.


Plan ahead

A discussion of estate planning isn't something you should jump into without prior planning. You want to go into it well prepared by having a list of all the topics you want to cover.


When you have your list ready, inform your parents of your plans to discuss with them, and then schedule a time and date and a private location for the discussion. Make sure everyone is comfortable with the agreed-upon date and venue. Be aware that you might not wrap things up in one sitting and might need to schedule another conversation.


Learn what planning they've done

Find out if your parents have an existing estate planning in place. If they do, ask them if they need to make any changes. You should also identify the document's location and the executor of the estate. It's possible they named an executor when you were young. If there's no will or trust, you'll have to start from scratch. An elder law attorney in Butler, PA, will be able to walk you through the whole process.


Talk about including a power of attorney

Your parents may become incapacitated and unable to make financial and medical decisions. If they haven't included a power of attorney in their plans, make them see why they should. Advise them to choose someone reliable and trustworthy.


Ask them what their end-of-life wishes are

Do not make assumptions about what your parents want. Advance health care directives are an important part of estate planning. These directives include medical treatment choices and include the name of someone to make medical decisions on their behalf.


For instance, it can clearly state whether they want to live out their lives at home or elsewhere. They can also choose a medical decision-maker and can decide whether the decision-maker should begin acting as soon as the directive is signed or when they are incapacitated.


Check for insurance policies

If your parents have bought any insurance policy, such as life insurance, disability insurance, long-term care insurance, etc., you want to know about it.


Life insurance, for instance, may pay out a death benefit that can cover the cost of burial and other end-of-life expenses. Know where the insurance documents are as well as the names and contact details of the insurers.


Discuss other basics

Get a list of your parents' financial accounts and also determine whether they've decided to donate their organs or if they'd like to. Ask them if they want a memorial service and how they want it. Also, determine what kind of final disposition they want.


Be patient with your parents and if you have siblings, include them in the discussions to ensure you have an open conversation that includes everyone involved. Estate planning discussions can extend beyond one conversation. So do not rush things or pressure your parents into concluding everything at a go.


If all of these steps feel overwhelming or you're confused about the legal requirements or implications, you can contact or have an elder law attorney in Butler, PA, present.