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Starting the Conversation: Aging Parents

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Thanksgiving is coming in a few weeks and the December holidays are right around the corner.  It’s possible you will be spending some time with your parents, virtually or otherwise.  And that could be a good time to start a conversation about their health, finances, and estate planning.

Many people know little to nothing of their parents’ medical status, financial circumstances, and estate plans . . . or if their parents even have estate plans.

But, they do know that it can be difficult to get their parents to talk about these matters.  Like anyone else, the elderly do not like to talk about mental and physical decline, share their financial circumstances, and consider the inevitable.

So, one way to approach your elderly parents is to use the same method they used when they taught you how to navigate the world: baby steps.

Here are some steps that you can take to start the conversation with your parents.

  1. Get the Family on Board. It’s important that all members of the family understand what is being done.  Otherwise, different family members may be addressing the same issues in different ways – or, some may think that others are trying to influence the parents or get preferential treatment.  So, it’s important to get together – by Zoom, a group chat, or a socially safe gathering – to lay the game plan.
  2. Plan Ahead. You should know all of the possible needs that your parents have and the options available to address them.  It’s best to have a clear outline in place.
  3. Open with an Icebreaker. If you’re meeting with your parents at a holiday event, they probably don’t want to be hit with questions about their health, finances, or estate.  So, open with an icebreaker.  Tell a story about how a friend or someone in the news had issues of which their family was unaware: “I realized I didn’t have an Advance Medical Directive or a Will when I read about Ms. Celebrity’s illness and death, so I started thinking about it and went to an attorney”.
  4. Schedule a Specific Time to Talk. It’s not good enough to say “You should give this some thought” or “We should get together about this sometime”.  Sometime never happens.  Rather, you need to set a specific date when you will meet to discuss a specific item.
  5. One Step at a Time. It’s too draining for anyone to try to address all of his or her needs at one time, and it’s more difficult the older you get.  Trying to do too much leads to resistance – or outright rejection.  So, only bite off one item at a time.  Find out what is most important to your parents and start with that: it’s often about who should handle their health care and finances when they can’t, but sometimes it’s who will get the cuckoo clock.
  6. Be Respectful. You might not like decisions your parents make.  But, unless your parents are not competent, it is their decision to make.  And your parents should know what they want better than anyone else.  A parent should be treated with respect at all times in this process.
  7. Recruit Help. Not all people are experts in all matters, especially when the matters deal with aging.  Feel free to seek out help – whether it is a doctor, a financial advisor, an attorney, or a trusted friend or relative.  Of course, your parents should be aware of and approve this outreach because they may not want personal matters shared with others.
  8. Prepare a Plan. The decision making should not be haphazard.  Instead, address all of the items in your outline, make sure they work with each other, and plan what to do about each one.
  9. Follow Through. Schedule doctor appointments – which a family member will attend with your parents.  Listen to your financial advisors and make financial plans a reality.  Meet with an estate planning attorney and prepare the documents your parents need.  And, keep all of the family members in the loop.
  10. Monitor the Situation. The family needs to pay attention to their parents’ physical health, mental clarity, and financial needs and resources – and keep each other informed.

If you need help in starting the conversation, feel free to reach out to us. We understand the concerns people have about estate planning, and we have the experience to guide them through it.

If you have questions or need help with your parents’ estate planning, contact Brian Hundertmark at: 240.507.1750 and brian.hundertmark@offitkurman.com.


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Brian J. Hundertmark has more than 30 years of experience representing the needs of his clients.  They rely on him for their estate planning, business succession, and asset protection needs. He designs personalized estate plans to help minimize the burden of gift and estate taxes while protecting assets from potential creditors.  Brian makes estate planning as timely and painless as possible.


Offit Kurman is one of the fastest-growing full-service law firms in the United States. With 14 offices in seven states, and the District of Columbia, and growing by 50% in two years through expansions in New York City and Charlotte, North Carolina, Offit Kurman is well-positioned to meet the legal needs of dynamic businesses and the individuals who own and operate them. For over 30 years, we’ve represented privately held companies and families of wealth throughout their business life cycles.

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Author: Brian Hundertmark, Esq.
Articles have been Reprinted with permission from the charlotte observer and Mike Hunter.

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