How to Have Difficult Conversations with Your Parents About Their Estate Plan

two adult women beside each other

According to a recent survey conducted by, two out of three Americans do not have a will or other estate plan in place. The most common reason listed by the respondents was they “haven’t gotten around to it.”  When you do not have a plan in place you give up a good amount of control and if you put it off for too long many planning options are cut off.

I recommend that children take an active role in helping their parents make a plan. Talking to your parents about their plan (or lack thereof) is no easy task. Discussing estate planning with your parents can eliminate surprises after they pass away and maybe avoid a disaster while they are living. This is too important of a conversation not to have. 

Getting the conversation started is the hardest part. A few simple guidelines can help turn this conversation into a positive experience. The most important rule (in my experience) is to include ALL your siblings in the conversation. Nothing works quicker to undermine your intentions than excluding someone. Choose a comfortable and private setting for this family meeting that is free from distractions.  Have an agenda (and stick to it) and keep the session to an hour or so. 

family gathering at festive table
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Once the family is assembled, in a comfortable, private, space…then what? How do you start the conversation? A good way to start is to discuss your own plan.  Discuss with your parents what your estate planning experience was like. Talk about what your estate plan contemplates. A good plan not only contemplates death, but also life and aging and incapacity. Focus on helping your parents maintain independence. Discuss long term care:  have they considered what would happen if they had to spend time in a nursing home? Nursing home costs can quickly eliminate your parent’s life savings. Is there a plan in place that contemplates nursing home care?

Ask about what type of estate plan they have in place. Make sure the plan fits their estate. Explore whether their estate plan contemplates tax issues, probate costs, or beneficiaries with disabilities? If they have documents- look through them- are the right people named in the documents? Do they need to be updated? What would happen if you needed these documents to work today?

family gathering for a group hug
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Do not neglect to focus on lifetime planning. Make sure your parents have updated Powers of Attorney, Healthcare Directives and Living Wills. Remember, most parents want to discuss their estate plan with their adult children. Finding out that your parents have planned their estate will be very comforting. Finding out your parents have not made a plan is a great opportunity to help them get their affairs in order.  

If you‘d like to come in and talk about updating your existing plan or making a new one, I offer a free initial consultation. Appointments can be in person or via zoom. Give me a call at 203-500-0201 to schedule an appointment or email me at

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