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Advice for discussing estate planning with your parents

As your parents age, it's more important than ever to keep an open line of communication regarding estate planning. While you don't want to become a nuisance, it's good to let your parents know that you're willing to help.

The most difficult part of discussing estate planning with your parents is starting the conversation. It's never easy to get this out in the open, but these tips can help:

  • Pick the right time and place: As one of the most important conversations you'll ever have, you must pick a time and place that makes everyone comfortable. For example, don't discuss estate planning at a birthday dinner. Also, don't wait until a time of crisis, such as the death of a loved one, to have this discussion.
  • Make your intentions clear: Before the conversation begins, make it clear as to what you want to accomplish. You don't want to give the impression that you're concerned about your inheritance or looking to better your situation. When you're sincere about your intentions, it will help ease the tension.
  • Don't rush the conversation: Many people make the mistake of trying to cram too much information into one conversation. It's okay to bring the basics to light, and then step away for the time being. This gives everyone a chance to digest what's happening and better plan for the next discussion.
  • Involve everyone: For example, you shouldn't talk to one parent about estate planning but not the other. Just the same, if you have siblings, don't shy away from asking them to partake. Again, this helps avoid a situation in which it appears that you're trying to hide something.

There is nothing simple about discussing estate planning with your parents. However, once you're in the middle of the conversation, you'll realize that you did the right thing.

You can help your parents in many ways, but don't steer them down the wrong path. For instance, if they have specific questions about state and federal laws, don't answer them unless you're 100 percent sure of what you're saying. It's best to seek professional guidance as to avoid a costly and time-consuming mistake.

Read our past blog posts and website for more advice on all things related to estate planning.

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