Death and finances are often taboo, especially among older generations that grew up less wealthy. Children who awkwardly bring it up can come off as greedy. Transparency is crucial when discussing estate planning because it offers a sense of relief for loved ones and helps ensure that wishes are fulfilled.

Older Americans are living well into their 80s. More retirement age people may feel they still have decades ahead of them. Estate planning is easy to put off. Talking about it can be intimidating, but people who don’t have those talks may be heaping unnecessary risks on their families.

Money talks, so should you

Adult children want to know that their parents have plans in place in case something bad happens. Asking about their plans is reasonable, but it takes tact. Buttonholing mom or dad at a party or calling on the phone to quiz them about life insurance and who inherits the house can put them on the defensive.

Financial planners agree scheduling a family meeting with your siblings is the best way to share expectations and determine how your parents’ estate will be managed. Here is what you should bring to that sit down:

  • Your parents need to know these conversations are to help everyone understand their intentions and plan accordingly.
  • Parents unaccustomed to their children managing them might resent the role reversal. Empower them to take control of their affairs.
  • This is about your parents’ desires and their ability to prevent divisive issues from tearing apart the family when they are gone.
  • Share your estate plan and whether you will need to save money to help care for them.
  • Learn where your parents keep their documents and contact information for their attorney or financial planner.

Asking “why” questions can make your parents feel cornered and insecure. So can specific queries about their estate’s value. Validate their concerns and ask about their plans rather than a specific dollar figure.

Out of the shadows

Families should be able to talk about anything after sharing a lifetime of successes, failures and lessons. End-of-life topics are not easy to discuss, but the issues are vitally important to preserve relationships and prevent conflicts.

The first step is putting the matters on the table. And the way you do that can dramatically affect the result. Casually discussing them in a relaxed setting can help ease tensions, defuse resentments and bring estate planning out of the shadows.