Discussing End of Life Issues With Aging Parents

Talking to someone about the end of their life is never easy. It’s a topic many would prefer to avoid. But this is a conversation that every child needs to have with their parents.

Some estimates claim that roughly 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day. They will live longer than their parents and as a result will face more health issues. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 1 in 3 seniors die with Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia. This makes having the conversation essential while they remain capable.

Make It A Conversation
It is always difficult to discuss end of life issues. If your parent feels like they are being attacked or pressured, they will resist. They will fight and find a reason to avoid the discussion. But if you approach the topic like a two-way conversation you will have better results.

Hold the conversation in a comfortable location. This is not an intervention and you are not ambushing them. If they feel comfortable, they will not feel an urge to escape the conversation.

Make sure you everyone understands that the interests of the parent is of utmost importance. Estate planning is about taking care of the parents and carrying out their wishes. It should not be a cash-grab by the heirs. This may mean being careful about who is present during the discussion or exactly what is discussed.

The most important thing to remember is that the point of the conversation to move towards creating an estate plan. It is not to rehash the past or drum up animosity between family. It is time to learn what the wishes of the parent are and make them feel that those wishes will be accepted and carried out.

Sooner Is Better
It may be tempting to leave the conversation until next week, next month, or next year. But death or disability can come for anyone, especially the elderly. Alzheimer’s and dementia can deprive someone of capacity long before anyone realizes what is happening.

When it comes to estate planning, sometimes it isn’t a question of life but one of capacity. If an aging parent is experiencing symptoms of dementia or having memory problems, it may be difficult or impossible to have a legally effective estate plan.

It is always easier to plan for someone while they are in good physical and mental health. After death or incapacity, the time for planning has passed. Instead, probate laws will dominate, meaning increased costs and time.

A Professional Can Help
While these discussions are difficult, having a professional available can help guide the conversation. An estate planning attorney can provide the structure and gravitas needed to ensure the conversation is productive. Even more, an attorney ask questions and make recommendations that will ensure your parent’s estate plan is complete and accurately reflects their wishes.

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