How to Start Estate Planning Conversations with Aging Parents

How to Start Estate Planning Conversations with Your Aging Parents

by Kellen Bryant

Estate Planning Conversation Aging ParentsThere are several aspects of estate planning in Florida that are less than fun, and that means that a lot of people choose to put the process off indefinitely.

There’s the need to gather a lot of documentation together, pay for an estate planning attorney, and not insignificantly, to contemplate one’s own death.  Adult children often find themselves up against these obstacles when trying to encourage their aging parents to get their estate planning affairs in order now, rather than continuing to procrastinate.

But, how do you get that conversation started?

Here in Jacksonville, we offer some suggested conversation starters that can help break the ice.

Estate Planning Conversation Starter #1 – Find an example of a family where the parent(s) unexpectedly died or became incapacitated without having put together the appropriate documents.  Describe how much the probate process ended up costing, how difficult it was for the adult children to make choices that should have been up to the parent, and so forth.  Over half the population in the United States does not have a will, which likely means they don’t have any other related documents like a durable power of attorney that follows the new Florida durable power of attorney law, designation of healthcare surrogate, or a living will.  Many people have negative stories about estate and incapacity messes.

You can find tons of examples online and then find a way to work one into the conversation.  Try something like, “I was watching CNN the other day” or “I was reading XYZ web site,  and I saw this crazy story.”  Every time a celebrity passes away, their wills or trusts make the news.

Stories work well because they are memorable and not just hypothetical situations.

Estate Planning Conversation Starter #2 – Let your parents know that if they want to have a say in what happens to their estate, it’s up to them to get things lined up with an estate planning attorney now.  Many people put it off because they think that they are healthy and don’t expect to die any time soon.  But do you they want to have some lawyer going to their hospital room to get their last requests signed and on paper?

Many times, just recognizing the fact that “the government” will be stepping in to settle their affairs can be enough to spur a parent to action.  After a lifetime of hard work, it’s unlikely they want some faceless bureaucrat making decisions about their money, right?

Estate Planning Conversation Starter #3 – Do your own estate planning and then share what you’ve learned.  By working with your own estate planning attorney in Jacksonville, you are bound to become even more convinced of your parents’ need to do theirs, plus you will have first-hand knowledge of what the process looks like and can help take some of the fear and mystery out of it for them.  Just knowing that they can come to someone they trust for support can be very helpful in making the mental leap necessary to get the ball rolling.

Simply relaying your final wishes may spurn your parents on to get their final wishes up to date.

Estate Planning Conversation Starter #4 – Your parent needs or asks for your help at their home with day to day tasks.  In many situations, the child closest in distance to the parent will take care of the parent.  If it starts as simple as driving your parent to the doctor or going to the bank for your parent, you will notice the red tape involved in dealing with doctors and banks.  With proper estate planning documents, the banks and doctors will allow you to handle your parent’s business with minimal hassle.

An estate planning attorney with knowledge of elder law issues can help to advise your parent of government benefits that they might be entitled to or help minimize future headaches that can come from “black sheep” family  members.

Talk to your parent about getting their estate planning done to make your life easier now and in the future.

By using any of these three conversation starters, you can help increase the chances that your aging parent will at least start moving in the right direction.  Estate planning in Jacksonville is something that many people want to put off, but to continue to do so is gambling with their own, and their heirs’ future.


Photo by:  R. Rasmussen

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