Are you concerned that your parents are not planning well? You are not alone. So many of us worry about our parents. Do they have money if assisted care is needed? Do they have a will or trust that is up to date and defines clearly what they want? Does their estate plan use every strategy possible to save on taxes? Do they even have an estate plan?
A recent survey from Everplans confirm it: while 69% say they’ve seriously considered drafting a will, just 34% have actually done so. Even fewer people are broaching the topic of eldercare arrangements; only one in four have a solid plan in place. Despite this reluctance to take action, 87% of parents say it’s important to discuss estate matters with their children. So what’s holding them back?
A lack of financial know-how seems to be the main culprit. A whopping 95% agree that services and access to information about creating estate plans would help them take action. Following are five questions you should ask your parents to get started.
1. Do you have a will or trust and how does it work?
All adults—especially those with children—should have a family legacy or estate plan. Would if you get in a car accident and can’t speak for yourself and need help paying the bills? Rather than flat out ask what’s in your parent’s will, I suggest you be more tactful. One great way to approach them is to tell them that you are starting your own estate plan and wonder what they did. Another appropriate question is, “Is there anything that we need to be prepared to handle as a family should something happen to you?” And one final point: It is best to approach the parents one-on-one. Appoint the sibling that is the most tactful and has the best relationship with them to approach them about this sensitive subject.
After the discussion, ask them to explain their plan with the rest of the family. With the family gathering holiday season upon us, it would be easy to encourage them to take advantage of that time to have the discussion – and it can be a real blessing to them and the family if done in the right way.
2. If you happen to need long-term care, have you considered what to do or how to pay for it?
Long-term care insurance can help pay for such costly ongoing services such as home care and assisted care. It is good to know whether they have a policy. As with other eldercare questions, using your own situation as a jumping-off point is a great way to broach this topic. You can frame it as: My company is considering offering long-term care insurance as a benefit. Do you guys have it?
Ultimately, you want to get answers to the following questions: If they don’t have a policy, are they planning to get one, or is it too late? And if so, how are they planning to pay for in-home help or outside care later in life?
Medicare pays for doctors, hospitals and drugs, but it does not pay for long-term care.
Long-term care insurance has gone up dramatically in the past few years, so if they don’t have it, the cost may be prohibitive. You might want to hire an elder care attorney to help you deal with this problem.
3. Would you mind if I accompany you to your next meeting with your financial advisor – just to meet them?
What I have found is that most elders are managing their money the same way they were years ago when income was not a crucial issue and when the markets were not as volatile and dangerous. You’ll want to be careful here because the broker or planner may be a friend, and they may not be prepared to make a switch if that is what you discover. It might be best to ask if they would like you to accompany them to a meeting with their broker/planner just to meet them in case something happens to them. If you discover they are not being served appropriately, and they are not willing to make a switch, you can open conversations including their advisor that would address these concerns.
4. How about we check out some assisted care facilities?
If you’re harboring serious worries that a fiercely independent parent shouldn’t be alone at home anymore, you can voice those fears—but it may not get you anywhere. Presenting the idea of touring a facility after you’ve already gone ahead and made an appointment isn’t the best tact to take—it will just make Mom or Dad feel as if the decision has been made and is out of their control.
What could help is to enlist the aid of other trusted people, such as their doctor, or a friend or family member they trust and respect.
It is always best to have the discussion years before a move may be necessary so that they can tell you what they prefer, such as staying in the home as long as possible or moving closer to the children before they need help or going where their friends are. I told my mother-in-law that she could move in with us or move into an assisted care of her choice. She chose the assisted care!
5. What impact do you want to have on future generations?
I left the best for last. The question: How do you want to be remembered—gets your parents to thinking about the future. Whether they share the same faith as you or not, it is an important question that all of us need to answer.
This is a question that needs to accompany any talk of the estate plan – and in most cases begin with it because it is the basis of every decision that follows. If they did not consider it when doing an estate plan before, this might help them rethink their decisions and see it not as an estate plan, but rather a Christian Legacy Plan. It is also a perfect way of you sharing your faith, how you Steward God’s resources and how you want to be remembered. What better topic of discussion for the holiday season. You may be surprised how joyful it is for your parents to know their Legacy matters deeply to you.
If any of this sounds a bit much for you to handle, seek the help of a Family Legacy Planner, who can help you navigate your specific concerns.
Download this free ebook that will help you understand what’s possible once you discover how to become a better steward by eliminating taxes by focusing on Kingdom causes that will enable you to build an enduring family legacy.
By Joe Sturniolo
Christian Family Legacy and Wealth Planning
Joe believes that stronger families are the vehicle God uses to bring
about significant impact for His Kingdom.