Estate Planning

Do you remember when your parents sat you down to have "the talk”? At that time, it was the last thing you wanted to hear and likely included some uncomfortable moments. As we ease into a new year, it could be time to think about another "talk”, but not ith your kids – with your parents. Many of us are reluctant to discuss health and finances with our parents until a crisis occurs. A sudden health issue can reduce estate planning options, as well as increase costs. That’s why discussions and preplanning are so crucial. While "the talk” can be a difficult conversation to have, the benefits of knowing your parents’ wishes can be extraordinary.

Having "The Talk”

If your parents’ health allows, they should be involved in making decisions about their living arrangements, level of care, and estate plans. Your role is that of supporter and information gatherer. Here are some tips that can make having "the talk” easier and assist you in finding answers to your questions and theirs:
Timing is everything – have your conversation well before a crisis occurs.
Consider that your parents may also be waiting for an opportunity to have a discussion about their future with you, and you are providing a welcome opening.Use ice-breaking strategies, such as offering to help with their estate planning or seeking their help with your retirement planning.
Keep in mind that your parents want and need to maintain their independence and dignity.Listen, and try to understand their fears and anxieties.Make sure that the conversation focuses on your parents’ health and well-being and your love and concern for them.

What to Discuss
Once you feel comfortable approaching your parents about having "the talk”, it is important to know what to discuss. Here are some tips on what to talk about:Income – what are your parents’ sources of income, and do any conditions apply?
Investments – have your parents designated beneficiaries for their registered investments and insurance policies? If so, who are they?
Expenses – what are your parents’ expenses and will their income (along with any government aid) be sufficient to cover projected home or personal care costs that may escalate with age?
Insurance – what types of insurance coverage do your parents have? Does their existing coverage protect the value of their estate?
Wills – do your parents have up-to-date wills? Without a will, unnecessary taxes may be payable upon their death; there is an increased potential for contentious litigation, and the very real possibility that their wishes won’t be taken into account.
Executor – have your parents designated a personal representative in their wills? This person is responsible for winding up their affairs and distributing assets and bequests in accordance with their wills.

Enduring Power of Attorney – have your parents given someone the power to make financial decisions on their behalf if either of them becomes incapacitated?
Living Will – have your parents provided explicit directions about the personal and medical care they desire should they become incapacitated? Have they appointed someone to make these decisions on their behalf?
Have Them Show You Where Everything Is Be sure you know the location of your parents’ wills and other legal papers, as well as the location and content of financial accounts and safety deposit boxes.
There are many financial and estate planning strategies available to your parents as they age. A financial advisor can help sort out the details and ease the awkwardness of "the talk”, by bringing an outside perspective to your discussion. And, while you’re at it, take a look at your own situation; you may discover that you’d like to create a plan to cover the many possible turns in your own life.

Tiffany Nelson is a Financial Consultant in Nanaimo.