You never really thought about your parents getting older, until one day your father had a sudden heart attack. He recovered, was put on medication, and went home fully recovered—but you know one day he won’t be so lucky. You keep thinking: what if he had slipped into a coma without leaving instructions on what to do—or worse, if he hadn’t survived the attack? Do you know what his wishes would have been?
How to Discuss Wills and End-of-Life Wishes With Elderly Relatives
Many families are reluctant to think about what might happen to their loved ones in an emergency, but as our relatives age, those emergencies become inevitable. The choices your parents make about their end-of-life care and finances will affect them while they live, and will affect your family long after—and while these conversations are necessary, it’s hard to bring them up without hurt feelings.
Consider these tips before asking a loved one about his will or end-of-life wishes:
- Pick a messenger. A parent may be more defensive when asked questions from his or her child than if a grandchild takes the first step. If the grandchildren are in their twenties or thirties, they may be able to ask their grandparents engaging questions that make them think about their future more critically.
- Change roles. Imagine your own children are asking you the sensitive questions you want answered. How would you want them to approach the subject? Would you be shocked or offended, or just feel threatened? Which one would you entrust with the details and execution of your will?
- Keep them in control. Many seniors feel that discussion of their property after death signals a loss of independence. Make sure they know that you respect their authority and that you will follow whatever directions you are given. You can reinforce their independence by asking their advice on your own affairs, including your own will and trusts, to let them know you are taking the same precautions.
- Tackle the topic piece by piece. The conversation may be a bit “out of the blue,” so don’t expect answers all at once. The best approach is to ask a few questions or talk briefly, then return to the subject when they have had a chance to make some decisions. It is up to you to continue the discussion, so revisit the timeline within a few weeks.
Although there may be some awkwardness at the beginning, many seniors and their family members feel better after discussing these topics because they have the comfort of knowing there is a plan in place. If you need help with your family’s estate planning or drafting a living will, there is help available. Call Ric Blackwell to provide you with competent and compassionate advice.