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On the Proper Way to Discuss End-of-Life Plans With Your Elderly Parent

Aug. 31, 2022

Younger person hugging and kissing older person on the cheekThe process of estate planning is an essential task for everyone.  

To those on the younger side who might think that they have plenty of time to do it later, tomorrow always remains uncertain. We live in a crowded world that is full of danger, and the causes of many of the events that we witness throughout our lives lie squarely outside our field of influence. 

To those of you who are elderly, time eventually takes us all.  

If these truths aren’t stressful enough, oftentimes they inspire intense feelings of anxiety--and a spark of motivation to prepare themselves for the uncertain. That’s where you come in.  

When we think about our parents and the way they have raised us, we often forget that they are still people who have their own thoughts and feelings. This means that it is important not to push them into discussing something as personal and sensitive as their estate plan if they are not ready for it. 

If you are an adult child attempting to care for an elderly parent, you may find the following tips useful as you work with your elderly loved one to close out her life and estate. 

1. Approach Them About Their Estate Plan in a Respectful and Upbeat Manner

The best thing you can do is approach them in a respectful, upbeat manner without pressuring them or rushing them through the process. If your parents do not feel comfortable talking about these matters with you, then try getting one of their friends or relatives involved who may be able to facilitate these conversations more smoothly than someone who is closer in age would be able to do so. 

Don’t talk to them like they are children. This can be difficult, especially if you are dealing with a parent who has memory loss or is no longer able to make their own decisions. But it is important that you don’t treat your elderly parents as children, even if they act like one sometimes! 

Don't use condescending language when talking about the subject of estate planning or money matters in general. This is especially true if you're talking to someone with diminished cognitive abilities. 

Don't judge them for not having an estate plan yet—or for whatever reasons why they do not have one at all! Remember: every person's situation is unique and should be taken into account when discussing this topic in-depth. 

2. An Advance Healthcare Directive Is Essential, and Should Be Created as Soon as Possible 

Also known as a Medical Power of Attorney, your Advance Healthcare Directive will allow an agent that your elderly loved one will appoint to act on her behalf should she become incapactied or brain dead. If that agent is you, discussing your parent’s wishes ahead of time will give you greater confidence in your ability to care for them should they not be able to. 

Remember that it is not uncommon for elderly individuals to be resistant to discussing their estate plans with their children. They may feel as though talking about this will lead to conflict, or they could be worried about how their children will react. 

3. Allow Them Time to Talk

If your parents are reluctant to talk about their estate plan, there are a few things you can do. First, be respectful of their wishes and make sure they understand that you only want to discuss these matters because you care about them. Second, ask them why they don't want to talk about it. Is it because they don't have an estate plan yet? Or perhaps something else is going on. 

If they don't seem receptive, let them know that you are here to help and will be available any time they want to talk. You don't have to wait for them to bring it up again. A few days later, check in again by saying something like "I've been thinking about our conversation last week" or "I would love for us to talk about what we talked about last time." The key is just letting them know that you're there for them if and when they are ready. 

Avoid making your parents feel that you are rushing them or pressuring them to get things done as quickly as possible. 

It's important to remember that your parents may be thinking about their estate plan just as much as you are. They may be considering how best to help their children and grandchildren, but they are also likely worried about making the right decisions. 

To avoid making them feel like a burden or pressure them into getting things done too quickly, it's important for you to remind yourself that this process is hard on them as well. It can take courage for someone in his or her 80s or 90s who has lived a long and full life even think about end-of-life arrangements with family members they love dearly—especially if they fear making any mistakes at all! 

4. Don’t Be the Only One in the Know When End of Life Issues Arise

Make sure to work with your elderly loved one to notify all other important individuals and caregivers, so that everyone is on the same page when the time comes. 

5. Be Patient With Your Parents if They Do Not Give You the Answers That You Want

It may be tempting to push your parents to talk about their estate plans. However, this can be counterproductive. If you try to force the issue, your parents may feel like you are questioning their ability to make decisions for themselves. Instead, allow them the space they need in order to make informed decisions about their estate planning process with as little stress as possible. 

Make your parents feel empowered by encouraging them to make their own decisions about the estate planning process. 

The most important thing to remember is that you are not in charge of the process. You can't make your parents do anything they don't want to do, and there's no way around it. While you may want them to leave their assets to a certain charity or relative, they might have other plans for those assets—and that's OK! It's important that you respect their wishes, even if they seem odd or inconvenient for you. 

When talking with your elderly parent about estate planning, try not to approach it like an argument: instead of telling them what should be done with their assets after death—which might feel accusatory—focus on making sure they're comfortable with whatever decisions are made about the estate plan itself. This will encourage them to take ownership over the process rather than feeling like it was forced upon them by someone else. 

6. Create a Financial Power of Attorney 

A Financial Power of Attorney is another important document that needs to be created by a Kennesaw Will and Trust lawyer. This document will allow your elderly loved one to appoint agents to manage their finances should they not be able to. Doing this sooner rather than later will allow you to better understand your parent’s finances, which will make your role as caregiver much easier. 

7. Even Though This May Be a Difficult Conversation, It Is Important to Have It so That No One Has False Expectations or Disappointments Later On

Even though this may be a difficult conversation, it is important to have it so that no one has false expectations or disappointments later on. If parents are not prepared for their own passing, they will likely become lost and confused when the time comes. As a result, they may suffer from depression and anxiety, which can lead to physical health problems such as high blood pressure or heart disease. Elderly adults who are unprepared for death are also more likely to be admitted into a nursing home at some point during their life due to the stress of being unable to care for themselves. 

Having an open line of communication with your loved ones about their estate plans will help ensure that everyone is prepared for what lies ahead—whether it's moving into assisted living or passing away peacefully at home with family members by their side 

As a caregiver and a son or daughter, you are faced with an important responsibility: helping your elderly parents plan for their future. When this involves their estate plan, it can be an especially difficult conversation to have. However, it is important to remember that even though many people avoid talking about this subject because they do not want to think about death and dying, it is still necessary so everyone involved understands what will happen when the time comes.  

8. Communicate With Your Parents

I cannot over emphasize the importance of open communication. You are acting in your role as caregiver to manage their lives when they cannot. Don’t let that power go to your head. For example, when it comes to comfortable living arrangements, your parent’s wishes reign, and you are to carry them out to the best of your ability with their wishes in mind.

9. Hire a Kennesaw Will and Trust Lawyer

Hiring someone knowledgeable of local courts and how to best create a customized estate plan is extremely important to the overall outcome of any estate. A trusts and estates attorney will be able to organize the estate planning process, notify every important person, draft legal documents to ensure your goals are accomplished and conflict is prevented, and if a conflict does arise, defend your estate in court. 

If any of this applies to you, or you have questions about Estate Planning in general, give Jesse A. Block and the Kennesaw Block Law team a call today at (770) 387-4529, and let us do the work so that you can spend more time with your loved ones.