There are many obstacles in the path to estate planning. One of the more difficult to overcome is when an elderly parent or family member refuses to cooperate or even acknowledge the need for estate planning measures. And this could lead to problems — such as family feuds and potential financial disasters — down the road.
Depending on their health status and other factors, including finances, your parents may resist your efforts to assist them in basic estate planning. Short of taking matters to court to have an elderly relative declared incompetent — generally, a last resort — develop a plan that provides some basic estate planning components. This will require a heart-to-heart talk with the relative. The first thing to do, and perhaps the most important, is to initiate a family meeting. (Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the meeting may have to take place online.) Invite all the key players — your parents, siblings and, as appropriate, their spouses to the gathering. Use caution in inviting spouses, as parents may be more reluctant to discuss their personal wealth in front of in-laws.
What should you discuss?
You should have an informal agenda before you start the meeting. Cover the entire estate planning gamut, as well as health directives. This isn’t the time to be evasive — the dialogue should be frank and honest. Many issues can be sensitive and emotions can run high, so be prepared for some hand-wringing or pushback. Try to adhere to the agenda, and be sensitive to the elderly family member’s feelings. You are discussing their health and their wealth. You probably won’t be able to accomplish all your objectives in a single session.
Consider meeting again with as many of the other parties as possible. In fact, you might broaden the circle to include your professional estate planner. Take as much time as you need to work things out.