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How to Talk to Your Parents About Their Estate Plan

In an ideal world Santa Claus would exist, we would be visited by the Tooth Fairy when we are kids, and parents would freely talk to their children about their estate planning. We all know that we don’t live in an ideal world but despite this, parents can still have open communications with their children about their own estate plan. While we almost always encourage parents who we assist to talk with their children about their plans, this doesn’t always happen. We find this to be true because many older Generations find it difficult to talk about private things such as money, property, and their personal business. However, this should not discourage children from discussing some specific things with their parents.

For over 70 years our team of premier Idaho estate planning attorneys have assisted clients not only in creating their estate plans but also in communicating them with their family. We do this as a way of simplifying the process of both estate planning and probate. Our team consists of partners Randy Budge and Lane Erickson and attorneys Nate Palmer and Dave Bagley, each of whom have the skills, knowledge, and experience to help each of our clients through the estate planning and probate process.

Through our experience we have come to learn that it is difficult for many parents to discuss their estate planning with their children. However, if you are a child and you are concerned about your parents’ estate planning, here are a few things that may help you have this discussion with them.

Understand Why a Parent may not Want to Talk About Their Estate Plan

The first thing that you need to try to understand is why your parent may not want to talk to you about their estate planning. It’s possible that your parent is just a private person. They may be part of the generation that found it rude to discuss personal affairs and business with others. There’s a reason that the “Silent Generation” got their name. If this is the category that your parents fit into, we find it helpful to utilize a third-party to assist in their discussing their estate planning with you. Often this may include the estate planning attorney. So if your parent is very private, the best thing you could probably do is to suggest that they discuss their estate plan with their attorney and have the attorney discuss these matters with the children rather than having the parents do it directly or alone.

Another reason parents may not want to discuss their estate plan with their children is because they may have a plan that doesn’t appear to be fair or equal. It’s not unusual for a parent to favor one child over another for various reasons. These reasons could be that the parents simply likes the child better. Alternatively, the parent may find that one child should receive more of their estate than another either because of their circumstances, or because that child has provided more care and assistance to the parents in their elderly years. Regardless of the reason(s), if parents decide to treat children unequally, the children need to be prepared to accept the decisions of the parents. In this instance when children assure their parents that no matter what their parents have chosen they will still love and appreciate them, the parents are often more open to discussing their estate plan.

Still another reason that we often see is that some children are abusive, or have addictions they are dealing with, or appear to be manipulative towards their parents. If you are a child and you fit into this category, I’m sorry we really can’t help you. Ultimately your parents’ estate plan is their own personal property. There is no legal means available that could force your parents to discuss any of these items with you if they choose not to. If you fit into this category, the very best advice we can give you is that you should work to establish and honest and trusting relationship with your parent, and that you should live your life in a way where your parents feel they can trust you. When this occurs, parents are much more open to discussing estate planning with their children.

Keep It Simple but Cover the Basics

The next important thing to understand is that if you are having a discussion with your parents about their estate planning you should just keep it simple. A basic estate plan consists of a last will and testament which is the document used by an individual to give away their property, money, and assets after they die. The last will and testament is also the place where a person names an individual to be their personal representative, or executor, who will carry out the instructions and wishes given in their last will and testament.

It’s our opinion that any discussions about your parents’ last will and testament should be fairly limited. Unless your parents want to discuss how they are distributing their property, assets, and money after they die, this should not necessarily be a source of a long discussion. The reason for this is that there really is no need for any type of discussion. Your parents can give away their property anyway they choose. They shouldn’t be pressured or influenced to do it in a certain way. The only exception to this would be again if one of the children is abusive, has addictions they’re dealing with, or is manipulative. In this instance parents may be more apt to discuss these issues with their attorney than with their children.

Estate planning also uses a durable power of attorney, as well as a health care power of attorney. These documents allow an individual to name another person who can make decisions for them about their health care property finances and other aspects of their lives if they become unable to do so. Of all the areas of estate planning that a parent should have discussions with their children about this is THE one. In fact, this is the area where we as attorneys strongly encourage lots of discussion between parents and children. The reason for this is that the purpose of these documents is to assure that parents will be cared for during their life if they are unable to care for themselves.

These documents allow the parents to name an individual who will make decisions for them. As a result, a good deal of trust is placed on these individuals. They are tasked with the responsibility of taking care of the day-to-day functions for your parents as well as dealing with creditors, other Financial issues, property, and all other daily life events. The importance of discussing this with your parents is that your parents should receive some assurance that the people they have made will actually take care of them and do what they will be assigned to do. It doesn’t do any good for your parents to create an estate plan where they named individuals who will refuse to take on the responsibilities given. A short but specific discussion about this will help you understand your parents’ wishes.

Don’t Procrastinate

The next piece of advice that we can give is that you shouldn’t procrastinate approaching your parents about having this discussion. If your parents seem to resist, it should be easy for you to suggest that they have this discussion with their attorney. In turn, the attorney could encourage your parents to have this discussion with you privately, or can facilitate such a family discussion in the attorney’s office.

It is much easier to have this conversation with your parents while they are still healthy and able to discuss these things. If you procrastinate, and wait until your parents are unhealthy, or are physically or mentally unable to have this type of discussion, then it’s too late. At this point, it would also be too late to make any changes to the estate plan if there were problems.

We have assisted numerous children in discussing estate planning with their parents. We are confident that we can help you too!

Enlist an Idaho Estate Planning and Probate Attorney to Help You

Our experienced Estate Planning team of attorneys can help you and your family with your Idaho estate plan or with your probate needs. Whether you are seeking your own customized Estate Plan or are in need of a Probate for a loved one who has passed, we are available to discuss your options and answer your questions at an initial consultation. Call us toll free at 877.232.6101 or 208.232.6101 for a consultation with the Racine Olson team. You can also email us directly at We will answer your questions and will help you solve your Idaho Estate Planning and Probate problems.

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