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Starting that estate planning conversation with your parents

You have never said a word about estate planning to your parents. You suspect they have not done it yet, and you know that they need to, but it feels too awkward to bring it up.

Maybe you feel like you'll force them to talk about the end of their own lives, something that makes you all uncomfortable. Maybe you worry that they'll think you're too interested in getting their money, and they'll resent it.

You're not alone

Talking about estate planning and end-of-life care is very important, but experts have found that most people do not do it. When asked if they felt like those conversations were important, about 80% of people said they were. When asked if they'd had those conversations, though, under 33% claimed they had.

It's clear that you're not alone. There is a disconnect here. People know they need to have the conversation, and yet they avoid it. This puts both the family and the estate at risk.

Why does it happen?

A few potential reasons to avoid this important conversation appear above, but what else is there? Common excuses included:

  • People felt that it was just not the right time to have the conversation, even though no one can predict when they will pass away.
  • People worried about the way that other family members would react if they brought it up.
  • People felt like they did not have enough information or a strong grasp on what the process really entailed.
  • People wanted to avoid any undesirable possibilities in estate planning, so they just didn't bring it up.

As noted, some of these excuses don't actually hold up when you think about them. Everyone must do estate planning, but no one knows when they'll need it. It's time to move past the excuses and start the conversation.

How do you do it?

How you get the ball rolling depends on what you feel, personally, gives you the best approach. That's different in every situation. A few potential ideas include:

  • Working on your own will to give you a reason to bring it up.
  • Using examples of friends or family members who passed away without an estate plan.
  • Expressing concern that you will not know what your parents want when it matters most.
  • Telling your parents that you want to avoid any potential disputes with your siblings or other relatives.

No matter what you decide to do, the steps you take can really define your parents' future and your own. Make sure you are all well aware of the legal options you have in California.

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