Attorney Q&A’s

How to talk to your parents about their estate plan

Talking to your parents about money or their mortality may make you feel uncomfortable. We concern ourselves with “What if they think I’m greedy” or “What if they get defensive?” Maybe the subject of talking money is considered distasteful in your family.

Whatever the reason, you are not alone. Most children avoid this conversation with their aging parents as long as possible, and one of the reasons is because we don’t know how to start the conversation.

At Monaco Cooper Lamme & Carr, PLLC, we hope we can help you start these vital discussions.  

Start the conversation soon than later

It’s important that you have some idea of what your parents want in the event of a medical emergency or after they pass away. For instance, your parents may want to stay in their New York home during an age-related illness, as opposed to be admitted to a nursing home. You need to know this information before an issue occurs.  

Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to make talking about estate planning a little easier for everyone involved.

Focus on your parents, not on yourself

Start the conversation in a way that empowers them to make the decisions. Remind your parents they are not alone, and you are here to help ensure their wishes are carried out exactly as they want. Acknowledge how uncomfortable this conversation is, but you are just trying to get things organized now so everyone is on the same page and their wishes are carried out.

Keep the 1st conversation pretty general

The first conversation that you have with your parents doesn’t need to include details such as who gets the family home or if there is a trust fund. Instead, you can simply ask whether they have a plan at all or what documents they already have in place. You could also ask about their attitudes toward money and how they would want their assets to be used after they are gone or maybe they want to spend it and enjoy it while they are here.

If your parents surprise you and are comfortable, you can have all of these discussions at once, but if they are hesitant, we suggest that you split up your estate planning conversations into several easily digestible topics.

A conversation should focus on health care directives

One of your first conversations should focus on their health care and be sure they understand that they need a plan in place that reflects exactly what they want in the event their health deteriorates or they become incapacitated.

This conversation will help you determine your parents’ exact wishes, as well as who they choose to make decisions on their behalf should they become mentally or physically unable to so on their own.  

In addition, this conversation will open the door for discussions regarding assisted living options and long-term care planning.

Address more specific wishes in the following conversations

Any effective estate planning conversation needs to focus on what your parents want or need. While you may want to inherit the family home, you should be willing to accept the fact that they may want to sell it. You should also be ready for the possibility that you don’t get anything at all or that you get less than your siblings. Even if you don’t receive anything from your mother or father, knowing what they want can make it easier to manage or settle their affairs.

Also, chances are your parents have some sentimental items they want specific family members to own after they pass.  A wedding ring to a special granddaughter; a unique hand-crafted furniture piece that has been in the family for generations; or other assets of significance they want a particular family member to have, like investments, a classic car or property. A conversation should be had about these items.

Estate planning tends to be easier when there are open lines of communication between family members. Talking to loved ones may provide an opportunity to reset your expectations as it relates to obtaining an inheritance or alter your plan to better suit your beneficiaries. And take notes so everyone remembers what was said.

Key estate planning topics to discuss with your parents and ultimately a New York estate planning attorney

  • Last Will and Testament
  • Advanced directives including:
    • Health care proxy
    • Living will
    • Power of attorney
    • Do Not Resuscitate Orders
    • New York State Organ and Tissue Donor Registry
  • Trusts including:
    • Asset Protection Trusts
    • Family Trusts
    • Children and Grandchildren Trusts
    • Revocable and Irrevocable Trusts
    • Land Preservation Trusts

If you, your parents, or your loved ones would like to discuss estate planning, give us a call at Monaco Cooper Lamme & Carr, PLLC. We are here to help.

Phone: (518) 855-3535


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