How to start the conversation.

Many of us have come to the point in life where we are aware that we have aging parents and that there is a need to have many tough, but needed conversations. Estate planning conversations encompass a wide array of topics that include wishes for end of life scenarios, how finances are to be handled during incapacity, wishes to remain in the home or to be placed in assisted living, funeral service wishes, and the list goes on. Not only are these conversation hard to start with our aging parents, but sometimes our view of what is the best decision does not always match the view of our parents.

The most important thing to remember during these situations is to make sure to have the conversation and not put it off. Make sure you and your parents know the other’s wishes and desires and to mainly have a plan in place. Here we will list out some conversation tips that will hopefully help you begin to have the talk to give peace of mind to both sides of the equation.

  1. Choose a time that is convenient and a place that is comfortable. Starting a serious conversation regarding estate planning and end of life scenarios can be awkward and difficult to say the least. Making sure you begin these conversations in a place that is a comfortable setting and one that will not be rushed is key to having a productive and meaningful talk with your aging loved ones. The last thing you want to do is to begin a conversation that cannot be finished due to time restraints or fear of being interrupted. Picking the time and place that is convenient and comfortable for all parties involved will result in everyone being as open and honest as possible.
  2. Be sincere, honest, and compassionate. Nothing turns off someone more from having an open and honest conversation than to have the other individual address them from a place of frustration, blame, or even hostility. This is a hard topic for everyone. No one really wants to address these topics, so in order to have a constructive talk your attitude and words should be comprised of sincerity, honesty, and compassion. You are doing this for the peace of mind and benefit of your parents, as well as for the rest of the family and generations to come. Keeping in mind your parents feelings and placing yourself in their shoes (coming to terms that they are aging and need to have these types of conversations) throughout this conversation will help you to be more understanding and helpful to them in addressing this topic.
  3. Drive home the importance and impact of these decisions. Often times we forget that our actions today will affect generations down the road. You do not have to look far in the news to realize that actions of celebrities and public officials affect people both now and in the future due to consequences of actions that cannot be avoided. It is the same with our estate planning. Once someone has passed, there is no undoing of what they did or did not do during their life as it relates to how their estate will be handled. This conversation is being had to safeguard your parent’s wishes and to protect generations to come. This is an important note to stress during your conversation with them to help them realize that their decisions will not just affect them individually, but will affect their children, grandchildren, and other family members involved.
  4. Listen. One simple word, but something so easy to forget and overlook. Your parents will surely have anxieties, fears, and questions about these topics. They will also have their own opinions as to how to achieve their goals and desires. Keeping in mind that their wishes and desires are top priority and listening to what they want will help you both to move forward in attaining the peace of mind which is the goal of these conversations. Remembering that this is their life, their estate planning, and their wishes is a key aspect in being able to have a productive conversation with them as they will want to and should maintain their independence and dignity throughout the remainder of their lives.

Realizing that we or our loved ones are aging and need to have these conversations isn’t easy and certainly not what we want to face.  While these conversations are not something that we look forward to, keep in mind that your parents may want to have the talk with you and are just looking for an opening to begin it. Taking the first step in starting these conversations can sometimes be the hardest, so using icebreakers such as offering to help with their estate planning or wanting to ask their help with your own retirement planning can be useful in starting the conversation. Keeping the focus on your parents’ well-being, health, and wishes will go a long way in achieving these goals.


Our attorneys are here to help you start the conversation with your aging parents and provide strategic advisory services for you.