DEMO's desk...: AGING PARENTS: questions they need to hear

Estate Planning & Your Parents

Three Questions to Ask Aging Parents

Talking with aging parents about estate planning is not easy. It is a subject that can evoke discomfort, perhaps because it is a reminder of our mortality or it involves the private topic of finances. However, ensuring that elderly parents have an estate plan in place is important, so that they will be well cared for into the future. It can also help to potentially avoid future complications, such as the need for court intervention or acrimonious disputes between family members.

Experts in this area often suggest starting with casual conversations to help to establish whether or not a basic estate plan has been put in place, or to identify the need for support. Here are some conversation starters that may help you to approach the subject and lead to meaningful discussions:

  1. Who do you wish to make decisions for you, if you are unable? This question may help to uncover whether or not the necessary documents have been prepared in the event of illness or incapacity, such as Power of Attorney documents (the name and applicable laves vary by province). It is important for parents to identify people that they trust while they are still able, especially to try and prevent elder abuse. This may also generate a discussion about how parents wish to be cared for into the future.
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  2. Have you spoken to a lawyer about an estate plan? This question may help to determine whether a will exists. If not, this may be the time to encourage creating one. Parents should also be reminded that estate planning goes beyond having a will. It may take into consideration tax planning to maximize wealth, or involve creating a plan for parents to maintain control of their money until they no longer can. If a plan exists, it may be helpful to discuss the location of the will and other financial information.
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  3. How do you wish to be remembered? Many adult children have never talked to their parents about how they would like to be remembered, what is important to them or what they wish to be their legacy. It’s not just about finances. This may generate discussion in other areas, such as philanthropy. Are there causes important to the parent, or ways to leave a lasting legacy?

Seek Advice

These are just a few questions that may help to talk about estate planning with parents. They are by no means meant to be comprehensive. Please seek the advice of an estate planning specialist if you are looking for guidance.

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