Even though death is the only inevitable thing about life, it seems, human beings still have a pretty hard time wrapping their minds around it. It’s part of our basic biology to not fixate on our eventual deaths constantly, but it doesn’t mean we don’t think about it. To boot, many social scientists agree that humans are the only species on the planet aware of this universal truth.
When it comes to taking care of elderly or sick parents, the complications of family dynamics can add a layer of difficulty to what is already a tendency to be blissfully optimistic that we may, in fact, live forever. Thankfully, there are some helpful ways to frame this conversation to ensure clear communication, which is the whole point of a will or succession in the first place.
Don’t Make It About Money
This may seem obvious, but the truth is, discussions of money, property, and resources are the most common source of tension and conflict when the topic of a will or succession is actually laid on the table. Nearly half of all parents interviewed by a Wall Street investment firm focused on retirement planning say that they have never had a detailed discussion with their children about their finances. Many of those interviewed cited embarrassment that they haven’t managed their money well as a reason for avoiding the discussion, along with a fear of losing their control over their own security.
As an adult child, you can ease the tension by choosing language that is positive and encouraging. Instead of making it about money first by asking if a parent has insurance, you can begin the conversation by focusing on their wishes. Saying something like, “I want to be sure what your wishes are for the future. You have worked hard to get where you are in life, and we (siblings) want to make sure that you are supported fully in your decisions.”
Clear is Kind – Keys to Communicating With Aging Parents
When emotions are high, it is not the time to have these discussions. These things should not be discussed while everyone is having after-dinner cocktails, either. No sane person values property over human life, but it is important to be sensitive to the fact that your parents may feel like you want to trade them for their wealth or accumulation of belongings, even if that is not at all the case.
The tone of the words you choose is as important as the message itself. Go into this discussion with a pact to yourself that you will not raise your voice, and if anyone becomes angry, you will set aside another time to discuss this. Be firm that these discussions are an important part of every family’s journey, but be flexible about warming a parent or parents up to this discussion over time. Within reason, ask them if they are more comfortable giving you the date that they feel ready to discuss a will.
Ask Your Parents For Help
Sometimes, the best approach is to show your parents that you need their help. While this tactic doesn’t work in every family dynamic, families who are typically good at communication can benefit from vulnerable and uncomfortable talks if the conversation comes from the heart.
Explaining to your parents, for example, that you are worried you will not have enough money to care for them properly when that time comes can put them in a position that makes them feel more likely to act. They are, after all, your parents. If you are lucky, they care about you and don’t want you to lose sleep over them. Putting the ball in their court can open up conversations about life insurance, beneficiaries of credit card life insurance policies, long term care plans, and more.