Frank discussions with your parents take place at different stages of your life. Some families discuss the "facts of life," while others talk about drug use and safety. At this point in your parents' lives, you may be discussing their eventual demise: perhaps the hardest conversation of all.
You might be surprised to learn that your elderly or aging parents are more open to discussing their final wishes and estate planning than you, their adult child. If they have already begun the estate planning process, they have come to terms with their own mortality—or are in the process of doing so. Having these discussions with your parents in advance will provide you with practical information. They will take comfort in knowing that you are prepared for the future.
You will be very appreciative after they pass away for the opportunity you had to ask them the questions that will help you to understand their estate and their wishes.
The Huffington Post's article, "What Your Aging Parent Isn't Telling You - I Want to Discuss End-of-Life Issues," offers three tips to help you decide whether it's the right time to discuss end-of-life issues with your parent:
- Spot the clues. Mentioning that your parent wants to pay for his or her funeral in advance may mean he or she wants to talk about end-of-life issues. Your parent may take great comfort in having you fully aware of his or her plans. So if your parent is casually mentioning these subjects, ask if he or she wants to set a time to go over his or her will, discuss his or her thoughts on medical care and talk about other estate planning matters.
- Pick a good time to talk. This dialog can be difficult. You should have enough time to cover everything your parent wants to cover. Remember, the most important thing is to have this discussion as soon as you can, as illness and accidents strike without warning. Understanding your parents' wishes while they are around will be easier than relying on paperwork or risking the possibility they may be too ill to convey their wishes.
- They're your parents' wishes, not yours. Most of us will have our own preferences when it comes to these topics, but it's important to remember that your parents' wishes might be different than yours. If your parents are well enough mentally and physically to make sound decisions, then you'll need to accept and respect those plans.
Bottom line: this is not an easy conversation, but having it in advance is a far better solution than making big decisions in the face of an emergent crisis. If you need help, an estate planning attorney can be of assistance, drawing on their years of experience with families facing similar situations.
Reference: Huffington Post (February 29, 2016) "What Your Aging Parent Isn't Telling You - I Want to Discuss End-of-Life Issues"