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Don’t put off financial talk with parents

Talking with aging parents about their finances, their wishes, and the future, is never an easy conversation. While not all parents are willing to have these discussions, they are important to prevent the difficulties that eventually arise. Communicating early and often can help.

Here are 6 tips from the article, “73% of Americans Haven’t Had This Crucial Talk With Their Parents,” by Cameron Huddleston:

  1. Keep the conversation respectful: Make sure that the conversation is respectful, open, and not accusatory or judgmental. Understand that your parents may do things differently than you would, and feel free to suggest alternative approaches, but be careful to discuss the benefits of the alternate approaches.
  2. Be mindful of how they feel: Make certain that it is understood that you are not trying to take over your parents’ finances or remove their control or access. Starting the conversation with an area that does not feel like a loss of power (such as medical decision-making) may be more successful, the article advises.
  3. Use a story: Whether true or not, this can get the ball rolling. It can be about someone who did or didn’t have information about his elderly parents’ finances. Assure your parents that you want to make sure this doesn’t happen to your family and suggest that they divulge some of their financial information.
  4. Get help from your siblings: The child with the closest relationship with the parent should start the conversation, with the other kids joining in later conversations to discuss specific details about your parents’ financial situation.
  5. Be authentic: The article notes that you might be able to get your parents to speak more freely if you share what you’ve done to get your own financial affairs in order. This can include divulging that you’ve met with an estate planning attorney to create documents such as a power of attorney and a will or trust. Another example might be letting your parents know that you have a list of your accounts and passwords to give to your spouse if the unforeseeable occurs. Then ask your parents what steps they’ve taken.
  6. Discuss their future: Inquire of your parents about their plans for retirement. You can ask if they plan to downsize or what sort of care they’d like to receive if either or both suffered a medical catastrophe or major illness.

There are several other great tips in the article, one of which is to get some help from an expert. If your parents are not willing to talk to you, suggest that they meet with an estate law attorney who can keep their personal matters confidential. He or she can help urge your parents to share important financial information with you, or at the very least provide advice and counsel to hopefully avoid the headaches that can come from a lack of planning.