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How to Discuss Estate Planning with Aging Parents over the Holidays

The holiday season is here and now may be a good time to start conversations with loved ones about the future and their estate planning needs. As difficult as it

POSTED ON: December 1, 2011

The holiday season is here and now may be a good time to start conversations with loved ones about the future and their estate planning needs. As difficult as it may seem, having conversations early can help families work together and avoid crises down the road.

It’s very common for family members, especially those who live far apart, to notice changes in a loved one’s cognitive or physical capabilities when they get together for the holidays. The realization that Mom or Dad or Aunt Sally may need more help than they used to can cause a growing concern for the well-being of your aging parents or loved ones.

But what can you do? Where should you start? Here are a few pointers than can help start the conversation.

■ Begin by having short, informal conversations with your family members to explore what their concerns are.

■ Gather information about what help might be needed and contact an elder law attorney to learn about the available options.

■ Consider holding a family meeting to talk about the present and the future. Work with your family members to create a list of topics to discuss with your attorney, and get Mom and Dad – or Aunt Sally – involved, too. Once you figure out what’s important to everyone (for example, protecting the home or avoiding probate), set up a free consultation to have your concerns addressed.

Seem impossible or overwhelming? Seek some expert help. Below are some things to consider and questions to ask:

1. Not sure where to start? The best place is usually the basics: Do they have any estate planning documents? Where are they located? When was the last time they were reviewed? Estate planning documents should be reviewed bi-annually to ensure they are effective.

2. Are the seniors in your family prepared in case they or their spouse need long-term care? At $10,000 per month, long-term care costs can devastate a family’s resources if not planned for well ahead of time.

3. Has a healthcare proxy and durable power of attorney been named for each senior? This can be extremely important should an emergency require a family member to make important health and financial decisions for another.

4. If you have an estate plan, is it set up to maximize benefits and reduce or eliminate liabilities for your family? Avoiding the time and cost of probate, reducing or eliminating estate taxes, and ensuring a swift and orderly distribution to heirs can all be accomplished with an effective estate plan.

5. Dreading the conversation? What if family members disagree about next steps? Or maybe they don’t think anything needs to be done? Download one of our free reports to help guide the conversation. You could also invite an elder law attorney into the conversation to help mediate conflicting ideas. The main goal is to protect your family and once that is clear, other details can usually be ironed out once everyone is well informed.

The bottom line is – as difficult as it may seem, starting the conversation before a crisis will help everyone in the long run. Call the Heritage Law Center and let us help you start the new year on the right foot.