Wait.  What?  Our kids have grown up and now we’re the ones who are aging?  How did that happen?  Weren’t we watching their soccer games like a minute ago?

If you’re at all aware of the emotional toll it takes to deal with aging parents, I’m pretty sure you don’t want to pass that burden along to your children.  And because I believe you’re smart and savvy, I’m going to assume that you’ve already put an estate plan in place for their protection.  If not, please put it at the top of your list of things to and get it done.  It’s way less painful than not doing it at all.  Believe me.  

Whether you have a Will or a Trust, please make sure your family knows the name of your lawyer, and where the documents are located.  Hopefully, you’ve retained the services of a competent estate planning attorney who has also explained the value of having a Power of Attorney, a Living Will, etc., and has prepared the appropriate ancillary documents for you. 

It’s equally important to convey your other intentions and desires to your family.   There are many reasons why this conversation is vital, and they’re going to need some guidance as to what to do when the inevitable occurs.  For now, I’ve listed only five such reasons:

  1.   If you are an organ donor, you’ll need to make sure your kids know this.
  2.   Do you want to be buried or cremated?   Which cemetery?  Where to scatter the ashes?
  3.   Who did you choose to be you executor (and, perhaps, why)? 
  4.   And what about your stuff?  Who do you want to have your wedding album?  Your golf clubs?  And which of your kids needs your car?  
  5.   Talking about these matters calmly and before they become urgent may significantly avoid conflict later.

Let me be perfectly clear — if you don’t think this type of difficult conversation will be necessary for you to have with your family, think again.  If you think you’re too young to worry about your own death, think again.  If you don’t think you have anything of value, think again. 

As I suggested in last week’s article, please make an appointment to meet with your family in order to start the conversation.  You don’t have to cover a ton of ground at the first meeting, simply share some of the vital information along the lines of the list above.  Once your family understands that you’re talking about these matters before they become urgent, I believe the conversation will be better received by all.

Ask anyone who’s lost a parent — it’s an emotional, stressful, and very difficult time.  There’s not too much anyone can do to help alleviate the grief and sadness.  However, communicating your last wishes beforehand, and explaining your thought process to your family, can help to minimize the potential for conflict after your voice is no longer able to be heard.

If I can be of any help, please let me know.