How to help your elderly parent with estate planning

When you were a child, you relied on your parents for essentially everything. As you grew into adulthood, you probably continued to lean on your mother or father for essential pieces of life advice. Now that your parents are in the final stages of their life, you may need to offer important guidance about estate planning.

Creating a comprehensive estate plan is often an easy task to delay. After all, when someone is healthy and active, thinking about the end of life is not necessarily a priority. Still, if your parents reach the end of their lives without an estate plan, they may have little control over their end-of-life care and assets. You can guide your parents through the planning process by starting with three basic documents.

  1. A last will and testament

The foundation of any good estate plan is a last will and testament. From a legal standpoint, this document outlines how your parents wish to distribute assets after their death. A will, though, also serves a practical purpose. That is, when you talk about assets with your parents, you open the conversation to cover other sensitive matters.

  1. A durable power of attorney

Aging has a way of taking away the ability to make essential legal and financial decisions. Unfortunately, though, the necessity of making them does not go away with age. While your parents may not want to think about losing their mental capacity, they may keep control by designating a durable power of attorney. With one, a trusted person takes control of certain matters.

  1. A living will

Your parents may have very specific ideas about what type of care they want to receive during their golden years. A living will clearly explains these wishes to family members, government officials and health care providers.

Effective estate plans are not generic. On the contrary, they address specific matters that pertain to your parents’ situation. If you want to engage your elderly mother or father in the planning process, though, you may find it helpful to start with three basic foundational documents. Remember, with a bit of effort, you can likely encourage your aging parents to think proactively about their future.