It’s Time to Have a Talk with Your Parents

One of the strangest developments in the ever-evolving child-parent relationship is reaching the point when an adult child starts dispensing advice to his or her parents. It’s a profound, but natural turning point in the relationship.

Planning for end-of-life issues such as health directives, death and asset transfer can be stymied by busy lives, a procrastination to face difficult subjects or simple ignorance. Whatever the reason, adult children can play an important role in helping their parents make critical decisions about a living will, a health care agent, an estate plan and powers-of-attorney.

Death and money may be the last remaining taboos for culture that can, at times, share too much information. Discussing either topic with your parents surely raises the bar of discomfort, but there are ways to make this conversation less awkward.

  • This conversation is too important to be impromptu. It requires devoted time and attention, so schedule a time to sit down with your parents.
  • Appreciate that an aging parent still values his or her independence. Let your parents know that this conversation is about them making decisions that put them in control of their lives; that a failure to plan may result in decisions being made for them.
  • Consider starting the dialogue by sharing what you’ve done, e.g., a will, a living will, trusts for the kids, etc. Let them know that you feel better knowing that your family is protected. Another approach for starting the conversation is by asking your parents about their wishes and how they want them carried out.
  • The objective of your conversation is to listen; then listen some more. Your value is not in having all the answers. Your primary job is to simply gain an understanding of their concerns and desires. A knowledgeable financial professional can help you and your parents with defining the action steps that will address your parents’ objectives. If your parents are reluctant to discuss certain matters with you (perfectly understandable, so don’t take offense), recommend that they discuss them with a financial professional.
  • As you know, a parent never stops caring about their children, so be sure to communicate your worries about their potential future health issues and your desire to make sure that future decisions will reflect their wishes.

Don’t expect one conversation will do the trick. It may take multiple conversations, or even multiple attempts to start a conversation, but your persistence should result in a beneficial outcome for you and your parents.

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2019-83912 Exp. 08/21