It’s Time to Have An Awkward Conversation With Your Parents
People live longer these days than ever before.
In 1929, the average lifespan in the U.S was 59 years. Now it’s almost 80 years. And someone who turns 65 this year can expect to live another 18 years (for men) to 21 years (for women).
So, if your parents are in their 60’s or early 70’s, it’s time (or past time) to have a very important and awkward conversation with them. (Maybe more than one.)
They may be healthy and self-sufficient now, but time is undefeated. Inevitably, they’re going to suffer from the mental and physical effects of aging.
And now…while they’re healthy and mentally sound…is the time to talk to them about these important things:
- What happens when they die?
- What happens if they can’t make their own decisions?
Talking about these things now will save them…and you…a lot of stress in the future.
What Happens When Your Parents Die?
Don’t assume your parents have a will.
According to a recent study, only 45% of Americans older than 55 have one. And even if they do, it may not be up to date.
Why is this a problem?
If they don’t have a will, or it’s not current, settling your parent’s estate when they pass away gets a lot more complicated. And takes longer.
Meaning…more money paid for legal expenses and less to be distributed according to their wishes.
Plus…a lot more stress for you and your family.
So, ask your parents:
- Do you have a will? Who will be their executor?
- Has it been updated in the last 3-5 years (or since any major life changes, such as retirement)?
- Where is it stored?
- Who is their attorney, and how can you reach them?
You (or their executor, if not you) will need to know their banking information, any recurring payments, and login information for any online accounts.
If your parents just passed away, you have more important things to do than frantically search for their checkbook to make sure the mortgage gets paid.
What If Your Parents Can’t Make Their Own Decisions?
But what if Mom or Dad are in the hospital and not conscious? Or suffer from Alzheimer’s or other age-related cognitive conditions?
Life still goes on. Bills still need to be paid. And medical decisions may have to be made.
And if they haven’t given you (or someone else) the authority to do those things, it can be a legal nightmare.
Your parents will need to have an attorney prepare:
- A power of attorney (for each of them). This lets someone else (that they designate) officially act in their place. Things like paying bills and signing documents.
- A medical power of attorney (for each). This gives their designee the ability to represent them in medical decisions.
- HIPAA release. This allows the person they designate to have access to their medical information.
The designee in each of these doesn’t need to be a family member. What’s important is they are willing to do this, available, and trusted by your parents and by other family members.
Like your parent’s estate documents, these documents need to be kept someplace safe and easily available if needed. They should also be updated every few years or when any major life changes happen.
Okay…These Can Be Awkward Conversations
No one likes to talk about people dying or being incapacitated. Especially talking to your parents about it happening to them.
Maybe you can suggest they talk to an attorney about what documents they need to have. Or have someone outside the family that they trust (clergy, financial advisor, etc.) talk to them, so it’s not all on you.
Make sure they understand how having these documents ready and available will make it easier to make sure their wishes are respected…no matter what happens.
And remember, you can’t predict the future, but you can protect your legacy…and your parent’s legacy as well.