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How to Discuss Estate Planning With Aging (or Sick) Loved Ones - Part 1

Ali Katz


Someone you love is aging. Or maybe, facing a potentially terminal illness. And you know it’s time for them to think about end of life planning because the end of their life will impact you.

So how do you broach this delicate topic when it feels so uncomfortable to acknowledge?

The first step is to acknowledge that it can be a difficult or uncomfortable conversation. Give yourself time to consider how you want to bring it up with your loved one.

Ideally, considering end of life matters would be something we regularly spoke about and got comfortable with before the end of life was near, but that’s not generally the case in our culture.

You can change that going forward, and I’ll share an article next week with guidance for how to make end of life discussions a regular part of your family conversations.

But, if you haven’t already begun incorporating end of life discussions into the culture of your family, it could be awkward at first. Especially if your family member is ill.

Create a safe space for the conversation. Prepare your loved one in advance that you would like to speak about something that could be difficult, but also will provide peace of mind that his or her wishes will be known and honored.

Maybe the first meeting would be with just you and your loved one and be more generally exploratory with an intention to schedule more specifically focused future meetings with other family members included, based on the desires of your loved one.

During this first meeting, begin by acknowledging any discomfort and your desire to create a supportive field based in clarity and understanding. If you find yourself speaking more than your loved one, ask more questions to open a space for listening and clarity.

Consider that this conversation can happen over more than one session and does not have to take place all at once.

Educate yourself about what will happen when your loved one becomes unable to handle his or her financial affairs, make medical decisions for him or herself, and then also what will happen to their assets and personal effects when they die.

Understand what your role will be if your loved one doesn’t take any action, and how that will impact you and other family members.

Be prepared to share that with your loved one so he or she can decide if the state’s default plan is sufficient to meet his or her wishes, so action can be taken if an alternative plan is desired.

If you haven’t been through your own Family Wealth Planning Session, perhaps start there. This is a Session during which we look at everything you own and everyone you love to determine what would happen if something were to happen to you, based on the State’s plan for you. By understanding the default plan, specific to your personal situation, you are able to make informed and empowered choices and can then help the people you love do the same.

Contact a Personal Family Lawyer and we can schedule time to do this with you. By considering your own planning first, you can let your loved one know that you’ve looked at these issues for yourself and you would like to share what you’ve learned and perhaps invite him or her into a Family Wealth Planning Session to consider his or her options.

Then, when your loved one is ready, consider bringing him or her to meet with us for their own Family Wealth Planning Session.  We are here to support you each step of the way.