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Tips for talking to your parents about estate planning

You worry that your parents have not made an estate plan. You saw a report saying that a vast number of Americans have not even written a will. It dawned on you that you have never heard your parents mention writing a will, creating a trust, setting up a medical power of attorney or doing anything else to plan for the end of their lives.

It did not take you long to realize that they probably fell into the category of aging Americans without an estate plan. You know what a risk that is and you know they need to get started. But how do you talk to them about it?

Granted, this can be a somewhat awkward conversation. They may not want to talk about dying. They may not want to share financial details. You may feel like you're just asking for your inheritance early. It's important to tread carefully, but it's also important to get them to do estate planning. These tips can help you make it happen:

  • Get your siblings involved. Be transparent. Not only do you want to talk to your parents, but you want your siblings to know that you're not trying to go behind their backs. You're trying to do what is best for all of you.
  • Practice patience. There is a reason your parents have not done this yet. Don't assume you can change their minds overnight. This may take some time. Prepare yourself for a long process.
  • Take notes. This is especially important if it does feel like this will take a long time. Notes help you avoid significant mistakes and oversights.
  • Be understanding. Know that it's tough to talk about these topics for people who may value privacy or worry about what the end of life means for them. Don't put too much pressure on them. Practice an empathetic approach. Focus on kindness and compassion, even if you feel like they need to work faster and harder to get it done.
  • Agree to listen. Don't come to them with the assumption that they need you to tell them what to do. Instead, listen to what they want and how they feel, and then help them find solutions that fit.
  • Find an easy way to get things started. Sitting them down and bluntly saying that they need to create an estate plan can feel aggressive and intimidating. That's not a good start. Instead, look for a more careful way in, like pointing out how hard it was for a friend's family when their parents did not write a will.

These tips can help get things moving in the right direction. Make sure that everyone really understands their legal rights in California and what steps to take.

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