The holidays are quickly approaching and many of you will have a chance to see your parents and, for some of you, your grandparents.  This would be an excellent opportunity to discuss your parents’ future and estate planning needs among the loved ones.  Yet, discussing the retirement plans and estate planning needs with your elderly parents can be very tenuous and uncomfortable.

This is often a touchy topic because older parents may interpret your questions as your attempt to take control over their assets or to determine what you would get when they pass away.  Either conclusion could lead to a very tense and uncomfortable conversation.  Older generations, especially those that survived wars and The Great Depression, often do not like to talk about their assets or finances.  They deem these topics very personal.

If you are dreading about bringing up these topics because they make you very uncomfortable, you are not alone.  So, you need to think strategically.  Knowing your parents’ health condition and retirement plans can help you to gain some clarity about their assets and financial situation.  To gain that knowledge, without raising tensions, consider focusing your discussion on your parents’ estate planning objectives, health condition, and retirement plans.  It would help you to identify obvious gaps in their estate planning and financial situation for the future.

How to approach the topic of your parents’ financial planning?

You can approach your parents’ financial planning indirectly, through a discussion about their retirement plans.  Focus on your parents’ goals to preserve their legacy for the future generations.

First, ask them whether they have a will.  You should tell them that you (and your brothers and or sisters, if you have them) want to make sure that your parents’ wishes are honored. Ask your parents whether their will is up-to-date and who has the original document.  This question would also help you to bring the topic of their retirement plans and finances.

Second, ask them whether their will has been updated and reviewed by an estate-planning attorney.  The process of reviewing (or creating) your parents’ will require the knowledge of your parents’ financing and retirement plans.  You should focus your discussion in terms of their retirement plans and the direction of their assets to support those plans.

Third, you need to confirm that your parents’ will (or trust) beneficiaries, guardians, and trustees (if your parents have a trust-based retirement plan) are current and reflect your parents’ latest wishes.

What happens to their assets in the event of disability or incapacity?

You should also ask your parents about their disability or incapacity planning.  Although people live much longer these days and their retirement, accounts have increased in value, so do the costs of living and medical costs.  Your parents should be aware of the risks of being hospitalized or in need of long-term care.   Such events can wipe out all their hard-earned savings.  So, incapacity planning is crucial for the people nearing their retirement age. Without proper estate and financial planning, an unfortunate event may wipeout all of your parents’ retirement savings.

What are their plans for the retirement?

Some people dream about visiting other countries in their retirement; others want to open their own business about which they dreamed for many years; while others simply want to spend more time with their family and friends.

Therefore, talking about your parents’ retirement plans can help to bring a candid discussion about your parents’ financial situation and whether it could realistically support them in their retirement.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to serve as a general summary of the issues outlined therein.  While this article may include general guidance, it is not intended as, nor is it a substitute for, a qualified legal advice.  Your receipt of this article from Lexern Law Group, Ltd. (the “LLG”) or any of its attorneys does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the LLG.  The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors of the article and does not reflect the opinion of the LLG.