Developing a comprehensive estate plan is a critical step in easing the financial and emotional burden on heirs after a loved one passes away. Unfortunately, many people die without a plan in place leading to turmoil and unnecessary disputes among surviving loved ones. While discussing an estate plan might be an uncomfortable conversation, it is necessary.

Adult children of elderly parents often feel stress over having a difficult conversation centered on estate planning. A lack of advance planning, however, can lead to enormous emotional and financial strain on those left to pick up the pieces. While the discussion might be challenging, here are some things to keep in mind while having a conversation about estate planning.

  • Money: This is the most common form of inheritance, often in cash or stocks or bonds. It is more important, though, for your parents to have a clear grasp on all their investments and savings rather than you seeking a dollar figure you might be receiving. In these conversations, it is more about being patient and guiding your parents toward a complete understanding of their assets.
  • Physical assets: These can be more complicated than money as it is not possible to divide a piece of jewelry down the middle. However, it is important to remain supportive as your parents begin making lists of who gets what. It is okay in these situations, to be honest. If there is something that holds sentimental value for you, it is perfectly fine to mention it to them. This might make their job easier as they have a better indication of who might appreciate various assets.
  • Legacy wishes: Here you can set your parents’ minds at ease while helping them plan for the future. Many parents avoid estate planning because they don’t want to upset anyone or cause trouble between heirs. Perhaps they have a dream of donating to an animal shelter or funding a scholarship. If this is the legacy they wish to leave behind, you should be supportive and work to help them discover a way to make it happen.
  • Scattered paperwork: It is wise to discuss with your elderly parents where everything is. For example, do they have a bank deposit box or an in-home safe that contains important documents? Things like their insurance policies, their current will, safety deposit key, property deeds and pension plan can quickly become scattered in a home.

It is possible that your aging parents have avoided any level of discussion regarding estate planning. No matter their health or wealth, they should develop a comprehensive estate plan that clearly describes their desires. When their plan is in place, they will likely be grateful that you took the time to help them, even if you had to have an uncomfortable conversation.