How do you get elderly parents to start talking about their financial and legal affairs?

Answer: This conversation can be either very easy very or difficult depending on your family dynamic. Children from families that have been very open and honest regarding the family’s financial and legal situation it is easy. For others, starting the conversation will be difficult if your parents never openly discussed their financial and legal matters. 

If your family has not openly discussed these issues, one way to try and start the conversation is to start talking about your own
concerns and issues. If you have recently updated your own estate or financial planning, you can start off by generally talking about wills, powers of attorney, living wills, and even trusts that you have considered and the advantages of each. You can express concerns you have regarding emergencies both medically and financially that may happen as your parents grow older. By starting the conversation out generally it encourages your parents to open up and share with you their wishes or plans for the future. You can also emphasize that by doing your own estate planning you realized that you may not really know or understand their concerns and wishes.

In some situations, parents really do not want their children to have any idea of their financial and legal status, and will not discuss the topic at all. If you find yourself in this situation with your parents, it may be best to hire a counselor or lawyer to try and get the 
conversation started. Your parents may be more inclined to talk about these issues in the presence of an uninvolved third party.

However, if the attorney truly represents your parents then there might be significant limitations on information that may pertain to you.  

Be sure to discuss these ethical issues with the attorney in advance.

David M. Frees, III
Attorney, Speaker and Author