Q and A: How do I talk with my parents about their will?

Question: How do I talk with my parents about their will?

Answer: Let’s start with why people write a will or create a trust in the first place:

  • They want to plan ahead for the costs of incapacity-for example, nursing home care-and let others know their wishes.
  • They want to pass their assets on to family members rather than let the government take their assets.
  • They want to keep peace in the family by identifying who gets what.

Keeping these in mind should help bring some focus to your conversation. You could begin the discussion with something like, “Dad, I really want to carry out your wishes, but I need to better understand what they are: Do you want to pass down property to the family? Would you like to use money from your assets to help take care of you and Mom if either of you need care? Have you thought of ways to avoid paying high taxes and staying out of court?” This gives you the opportunity to identify what they have or have not done to meet their needs.

Let your parents know that you fully understand that this is their money and that advanced planning means they stay in control. If you sense they need to better understand how to protect their assets, recommend they see a professional to guide them through the options that are best for them. You may also want to broach the subject by sharing the strategies you’ve used to write your own will. Or, you might simply relate some information that you’ve learned, as in, “Mom, guess what I discovered the other day? If I set up a trust, I can…” Sharing information during the course of everyday life makes the topic less threatening. However you approach the topic, remember that an inheritance is a gift, not a right. For an excellent website on general legal issues and frequently asked questions about wills, go to www.nolo.com or give Nolo Press a call at 1-800-992-6656 and ask about their publications.

This article written by Dr. Linda Rhodes, from “Finding Your Way, 250 Real Life Questions & Commonsense Answers”