How to Talk to Older Loved Ones About Estate Planning
There is no avoiding the fact that some conversations are simply difficult to have, even with the people in your life with whom you feel closest. One of the most difficult conversations anyone can have is the conversation with older loved ones about what happens to them after they die. Quite often, they don't feel comfortable talking about it. This, despite the fact that everyone will die at some point, and most will die with assets. That means they will have to determine the value of those assets and what happens to them.
While "the conversation" with, say, your parents, is difficult, it is not impossible, especially if you follow a few basic ground rules. Follow these, and the conversation will go far more smoothly, and be more productive and positive than you could possibly imagine.
First off, you should avoid approaching the conversation with preconceived notions about what your loved ones may say or how they will react. Try to make the conversation about what they want, and what is important to them, and less about what is important to you. You should approach the conversation with the intention of listening more than talking. Ask them what they would want to do about it if they needed more help, instead of telling them they need a plan if something should happen. Don't make it seem like an emergency, and try not to put too much pressure on them.
Let them know they're not alone; that everyone has to make such decisions, including you. You can also tell them some of your own thoughts about what you want for your own future, and your plans about what you plan to do after you're gone. Don't be afraid to couch your remarks by letting them know that you agree that it's difficult to talk about, but important just the same.
You should also be very careful to not beat around the bush. Being straightforward and sticking to facts, even when they're negative, is very important. Don't hide any negative information, but don't be afraid to build on family strengths. Let them know that there may be some problems with them staying in the house because of all the stairs, or other reasons that may be applicable, and discuss all of the other options available to them. However, it may be a good idea to phrase all of your concerns as questions, and allow them to draw the conclusions and make the choices necessary. Let them get angry or upset if they so choose, but you have to stay calm. Let them know that it's upsetting for you as well, but it's important to discuss. By all means, give everyone space. Leave the conversation open to be continued in another time, if that's what's necessary. In most cases, not everything has to be decided right away, and sometimes leaving them to their thoughts will lead them to decision-making.
Also, make sure that everyone is heard, including those family members were generally afraid to tell anyone what they think. Acknowledge that you realize that this type of subject is difficult for a lot of people, but that their opinion matters.
When the conversation is over, or can't go any farther, try to end on a positive note, showing appreciation to everyone for their input. Then, afterward, plan something relaxing are fun for the whole family, and enjoy it together.