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It’s Your Turn

Happy old couple smiling in a park on a sunny day

Let’s Turn the Tables…

Remember as a child how your parents helped you with anything and everything? From the time you got up in the morning, made your bed, ate some breakfast and started the rest of your day, one or both of your parents probably helped you with every task of the morning. These simple actions prepared you to do things on your own, were for your long-term benefit, and stayed with you through adulthood. Thanks, mom and dad! Now that Mother’s Day is upon us, it’s time for us to turn the tables a bit and think about how we can help our parents today, for their long-term benefit.

We’re probably all tired of hearing about COVID-19 as it seems to dictate our daily life. However, one of the things it has made very clear is that life can change in an instant. So as Mother’s Day and soon Father’s Day approaches, perhaps this is an especially good time to be thinking about not only our future but our parent’s future, too. Let’s think about how we can be helpful to them after all the years they were helpful to us when we were younger.

Where Our Day Begins and Ends…

So, as we continue our financial open house tour this month, we are focusing on the bedroom…the room in the house where our day begins and ends. First thing in the morning, we’re thinking about the tasks ahead, the day to come, and what we look forward to. Then at the end of the day, as we climb back into bed, we reflect on the day, mull over some of the events, and are often grateful for the day’s blessings. These are the same times of the day that our parents were there for us as children.

One of the most common questions I get asked when talking to people about estate planning and helping their elderly parents is “How do I even bring up the topic?” Finances and end of life wishes are difficult subjects for many families to talk about. And role reversal can feel awkward, we want to be respectful but also helpful. Therefore, if you are listed as the personal representative or successor trustee of their estate and will be involved in settling their affairs after they’re gone, it behooves you to be sure you understand not only what they have in place but what their wishes are as well. For all of those reasons it is crucial to have a conversation with our parents to express our love, concern, and willingness to help for everyone’s benefit in the end.

So How Do We Do it?

Before talking to a parent, it’s helpful to think about what aspect of estate planning the parent may be most open to discussing. Maybe the best approach is thinking about their health or a financial perspective. You could discuss getting their records organized or have a general conversation from an overall estate planning standpoint. It’s also a good idea to think about your parent’s preferred way to communicate. Does your parent prefer to dive right into a conversation or read about something first or hear about an experience you had or perhaps hear a story about someone that one of you knows?

Once you identify the sub-topic of the estate planning conversation that you feel will make for the best initial discussion, think about how you will approach the subject. Initially, it can be helpful to throw out what I call a “floater” question. You may share an experience you had, something you read about or heard on the news or found interesting.  Then mention how it made you curious about their thoughts on the subject. Or, instead of a question, it may be helpful if you approach it by asking for advice. Maybe you are working on getting your records organized or updating your estate planning, so you can ask for their advice on what you are working on. Also, it would be very appropriate in today’s COVID-19 world to comment that all of this has made you wonder what would happen if you, or a parent, ended up in the hospital. Those are just a few suggestions to get the conversation started.

For more ideas on this subject, check out the resources available at The Conversation Project or this article at Join Cake about how to start an end of life planning conversation with loved ones.

This is important…

No matter how you approach the subject, be sure you listen and be persistent if the conversation didn’t go as deep as you wanted. Ask again or share a resource another time. Don’t give up, this is important for everyone.

Maybe you start small yourself, with a checklist of just what information should be compiled in the event someone else needs to step in and help you with finances and household activities. Check out the Legacy Checklist on our Resources section and maybe use that exercise to start up a conversation with a parent. My Financial Blueprint (also in the Resources section) is the ideal tool to help your parents capture everything they have in place, but feel free to use whatever tool your family is ready for.

Now It’s Your Turn…

I encourage you to think more about this topic and preparing your parents for the future. Make this month the time you turn the tables and think about who came into your bedroom, woke you up in the morning and tucked you in at night. Now it’s your turn to help take care of them.

Marie Burns is a Certified Financial Planner, Speaker and Author of the bestselling Financial Checklist books.

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