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How can I talk to my parents about estate planning?

Hubbard Snitchler & Parzianello

Over the past two years or so, estate planning has become a hot topic, but for some, if not most, estate planning is still just on the to-do list. However, for our aging parents, the need to estate plan gets more urgent with every passing day. It is a hard conversation, though, which is why we often get questioned on how to talk with parents about estate planning.

Does the conversation really need to be now?

If our readers are the children of ageing parents, yes. There are two obstacles that pop up immediately after death. First, if there is no estate plan, the kids will have to scramble to figure out their parent’s entire financial life. For example, finding life insurance policies, brokerage accounts, etc. will all have to be determined without any help. Think about it this way, if one’s dad died, would their mom know how and to who to even pay the light bill? This is why it is so important.

Second, dying without an estate plan can be costly. Indeed, it is the costliest way to pass because the government (state and federal), courts and debt collectors will take as much money as possible, and beneficiaries will have very little recourse.


Of course, the actual estate plan should be done by a professional, so really, as the kid, the job is just getting the parent to get the estate plan done. This is where preparation is key. Understand the basic documents: wills, health care proxies, power of attorneys and trusts. Each of these legal instruments have different purposes, but the key in each is designating who will act on the deceased behalf after they pass.

Be cognizant of family dynamics

Depending on family dynamics, our reader may not be the best one to broach the estate planning topic, or they may need to include others. Sometimes, have a united sibling front can drive the point home and make estate planning a priority. A blended family may mean that other half- or step-siblings may make better messengers. Plus, making this a family conversation can avoid in-fighting after one or both parents pass.

Timing, timing, timing

Before having the conversation, think about when is the best time to have the conversation. Of course, there is no better time than now, but there may be times when our parents are more receptive than others. For our Detroit and Southeast Michigan readers, the key here is to start planning to help them plan now, before something happens.

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