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It is very important to discuss estate planning with parents and other members of the family while they are all mentally healthy, if families wait to make arrangements until after one parent is incapacitated in some way, it limits their choices.  Talking with parents and other family members about your financial and estate plans could be the catalyst for the others in the family to start thinking about and discussing their own estate plans.  Remember that the discussion may reveal estate plans that you may not like but it is each person’s prerogative to make their own individual plan.  Estate plans do not always result in people being treated equally, it’s very important—to avoid conflict later—that family members know and understand what plans are in place. Here are a few tips to help you, your parents and other members in your family start talking:

Focus on life, not death

While the topics of estate planning and death are intertwined, it doesn’t mean that death has to be the focus of the discussion, rather focus the discussion on planning to live well, instead of planning to die well.

Encourage your parents and other family members to discuss their wishes

It is important that your family discuss what they want to have done and who they want to do it.  Ask your family what it is they would like you and/or others in the family to do in the event of an emergency.  Ask them what documents are needed to assist them properly and where are they located.  If your family member is not able to communicate it is important to know where their important documents are kept as well as the name, address and phone numbers of those who can assist in management of their affairs for example:  Accountant; Lawyer; Primary Care Physician; Clergy; and Funeral Director.  Also, ask your family who they want to make their health care and/or financial decisions, if they are unable to articulate or make them for themselves.  To ensure that each family member’s individual goals are met, all members of the family should be absolutely clear about their wishes and that they want.

The need for protection for the entire family should be emphasized

A formal estate plan helps to protect the entire family from creditors and possible predators.

Encourage parents and all family members to seek expert legal and financial advice

By YOU doing so, you are setting an example while at the same time sending a message that you  trust everyone else to handle their own affairs, this will more than likely help them breathe easier by knowing you don’t want to control the situation. Offer to help them with their search for a qualified attorney.

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Be patient and understanding

Be realistic, the initial conversation with parents and other members of the family about estate planning will not be easy and it will not be, nor should it be, the last one. It may take several discussions before even a little bit of headway is made, and even after estate plans are in place, it does not mean that these plans will always remain relevant in the future, it is an ongoing dialogue and process.