One of the hardest things to do is talk to your parents or loved ones about their future life planning. Here are a few ways to help make it easier for everyone and give you a jumping-off point to get the conversation started.
1. Have a Strategy
Approach the subject with care and sensitivity. Talking about future life plans and finances can bring up a lot of emotions. Have a strategy about how or when you'd like to approach the subject — in person, over the phone, alone or with others — before you bring it up.
2. Include Others
When it comes to wills and estate planning in general, include other family members. If you plan to speak with your parents about preparing or revising an estate planning document, for example, make sure to allow all your siblings to participate in the conversation.
That will go a long way toward avoiding the perception that you are exerting influence, controlling the processor having the conversation in secret.
3. Get Informed
Before you can have a conversation about making a plan, it's good to get informed yourself. Learn about the differences between each planning tool, what happens when you don't have a will, or what probate is.
4. Be Open and Listen
When you broach the subject, take care to listen and be sensitive to your loved ones' feelings. Asking questions is often a better approach than judging or imposing an opinion. Your goal should be to make it easier for them. Wherever they are at that time, accept it, and if necessary, come back to the conversation later.
5. Lead by Example
The best place to start is with your own experience. The more familiar you are with the process, the easier it will be to explain it, and the less intimidating it will seem to your parents or loved ones.
If you haven't made a will or living trust yet, you might consider making your own document while working on theirs to share the experience and learn together.
6. Don't Push It
If you sense any pushback—stop and reevaluate the situation. Maybe now is not the right time, or you might have hit a sore spot. Investigate it further to come up with a new approach that's less direct or intimidating.
You might start cataloging their finances, for example, to focus on building the parts of a plan rather than the whole plan. Or you can start with a living will and health care power of attorney.
Even if people are unwilling to discuss finances, most appreciate the value of putting their own health care wishes in place and naming someone to implement those wishes if they cannot do so.
7. Encourage a Dialogue
If it's something they've never talked about, casually bringing it up a little bit at a time over a period of weeks and months can help soften their fears or desire to avoid it. Then it becomes part of your normal dialogue and not such an emotionally charged issue.
8. Frame the Issue.
Making a plan might not seem like the most pleasant task at first, but once you start, you'll find it to be a rewarding experience. Now that your parents or loved ones have an important part of their lives planned out, their future—and yours—can be much more harmonious and worry-free.
Whatever you do, one thing is for sure—doing nothing should not be an option. At the very least, encourage your family and loved ones to make a last will.