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Monday, February 22, 2010

What not to say to your parents about estate planning

Do your parents have Wills, Enduring Powers of Attorney and Personal Directives in place? If not, how do you motivate them to get going on these documents? Not all parents appreciate getting advice from their own kids about legal and financial affairs. But if your parents are getting on in years, or if one of them is showing the early signs of incapacity, or if they have a business or cottage to deal with, you may feel some urgency for them to have proper estate planning documents in place.

It's frustratingly easy to make mistakes when talking about touchy subjects, and doing so can sometimes send a small struggle spiraling into a huge dispute. You do have to be careful and think through what you will say and how you will say it before approaching your parents. The idea is to minimize upset.

Here are some things you should not do when trying to motivate your parents into doing their estaet planning. Many of them are simply common sense:

- Don't accuse your parents of being lazy, selfish or negligent because they haven't done their planning.

- Don't tell your parents that they are bad people are lousy parents for not taking care of their planning.

- Don't frighten your parents by saying things like "you could die tomorrow" or "you're sicker than you realize".

- Don't threaten your parents that you will cut them out of your life or keep their grandchildren away uless they get on with their planning. Also, don't threaten that if they don't take action, you will take matters out of their hands and force a solution on them.

- Don't make it about you. It's their planning.

- Don't give false or misleading information in an attempt to scare or trick your parents into action.

- Don't be impatient. Let them move at their own pace, as long as the planning is actually under way.

These (and others) are talked about in some detail in my new book, Estate Planning Through Family Meetings, which will be on store shelves in another couple of months.

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