People often equate talking about estate planning with the thought of death, which leads to an uncomfortable conversation on the subject. You can approach the topic with the truth: it’s really a safety net just in case something happens. Explain how your parents having a good estate plan will give you all the peace of mind that their desires and wishes are documented, so in a time of crisis you don’t have to struggle to figure out what to do, you’ll know.
These factors can lead to effective communication:
- Be honest and sincere. Communicate that you’re here to support them and just want them to do what’s best for them.
- Find the right time and right environment. Don’t start this conversation at the holiday dinner table while you’re all surrounded by various friends and family members. Sit down with your parents on a calm day when not much is going on.
You could start the conversation with your parents by discussing your own estate planning and what you’ve done. Then you could ask them if they have any estate planning documents and if they’ve reviewed them recently to make sure they’re up to date. It’s also important for you to know where those legal documents are and it’s also a good idea to know who the lawyer is in case you need to contact them in an emergency.
If they have no estate plan, suggest that they connect with an estate planning attorney. Explain how you got peace of mind by documenting wishes for your estate and health care, and you’re hoping that your parents do the same. You could mention that you have a great attorney they could use or you could easily help them find an attorney who could help them. And remember to follow up with your parents to make sure they’re taking the necessary steps.
At a minimum, your parents should have a will or trust, a power of attorney, a health care proxy, and a living will. Estate planning is about transferring assets to their beneficiaries the way they want, when want, with the least amount of court costs, legal fees, and complications. It also includes making decisions for how their estate would be managed if they’re still alive but unable to make their own legal decisions due to an incapacitating illness or injury. A health care proxy and a living will can outline who you want to make health care choices for you and how you would like end-of-life decisions to be handled.
If your parents may benefit from MassHealth planning, an estate planning lawyer can also help them with that. MassHealth planning is about protecting their assets while making them eligible for MassHealth coverage. Without this planning, your parents could spend their life savings on medical expenses.
Making sure your parents have a good estate plan in place will help them be well cared in the future and will make the process easier for you and your family.