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Having “the talk” with elderly parents

If you have aging parents, have you had “the talk” with them yet? As uncomfortable as it is, it’s important to learn what plans your elderly parents have made regarding their future care and estate plan.

It’s uncomfortable to confront your own mortality and contemplate the death of those whom you love. Discussing it frankly with them is even more uncomfortable. Yet, it can be the kindest thing you can do for your parents. Below are some tips on what to bring up, and when.

Address it in terms of your own estate planning process

As none of us are guaranteed time, it is hoped you have tended to your own estate planning matters. In fact, you could use that as the segue into asking your mom and dad if they have done their planning as well.

Start with the basics

Even if they have taken care of the rudimentary plans, it may have been decades ago when they had to worry about guardianship of their children. Now, it’s time to revise their wills and review beneficiaries on insurance policies to be certain that the designations clearly reflect their current circumstances and intentions.

Don’t forget health care proxies

In earlier years, your parents might have been one another’s health care proxies. But if both are elderly, one parent may lack the capacity to make decisive medical decisions when they need to be made. It might be better to choose an adult child, grandchild or someone else who can be trusted in that role.

What about power of attorney?

Again, it might be better to select someone other than a spouse for this role. This person may need to step in and take over your parent’s day-to-day affairs when they cannot do so themselves due to age or infirmity. Your parents could designate a trusted attorney to fill this role if they decide to choose a non-family member.

In some families, that can be the better option. It avoids the appearance that the parent is favoring one child over the others and can decrease the likelihood of simmering sibling rivalries reigniting when the parent is in crisis.

You may need to have the discussion more than once

Don’t despair if your mom or dad balks at taking action now. You don’t want to sound like a broken record with them, but don’t be afraid to revisit the subject at some future point. Your estate planning lawyer can also give you some tips on the matter.


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