Steps to Begin End of Life Planning with Parents

For those with aging parents, having a discussion about end of life planning is not an easy or straightforward task. Creating a path to clear and honest communication, along with understanding a parent’s wishes takes patience as well as knowledge of what should and can be planned out in advance. In many families, end of life planning is not talked about openly because both children and parents are fearful of recognizing the reality of death. However, a proper end of life plan can reduce stress, both emotionally and financially, and eliminate the burdens placed on family members when someone’s time comes.

Understanding Care Options and Desires

A crucial component of end of life planning for older adults is knowing what options are available for assistive health care. Recent statistics show that 70% of those who reach retirement age will need some form of long-term care before they pass away. This could mean getting help in the home for normal daily activities, like eating or bathing, or transitioning to a care facility that provides a higher degree of ongoing assistance. In either case, long-term care is a common issue among older adults that requires some advanced planning.

Adult children can approach the topic of long-term care with aging parents in a delicate way, focusing on their parent’s potential needs and desires. Talking about care options is one way to start the discussion, and this requires some knowledge of what facilities or at-home care services are available and at what cost. Asking questions about what a parent wants should advanced care be necessary helps provide a roadmap for the planning initiatives that need to be put in place before care is needed.

Legal and Financial Matters

In addition to a conversation about care needs in the future, children with aging parents need to take the time to discuss the legal and financial matters inherent to one’s passing. From a legal perspective, recognizing estate planning documents are already in place is beneficial. If none exist, it is worth talking through which documents may be necessary to ensure a smooth transition of assets when the time comes.

Financial matters that are not managed properly before a parent dies can wreak havoc on a family’s well-being, causing unnecessary stress and costs. One of the ways to ensure final arrangements are covered and outstanding debts are paid is to acquire adequate life insurance coverage. A finance expert from Money Pug, a site used to compare life insurance options, suggests that insurance put in place as part of end of life planning can make a significant difference in the financial stress endured by loved ones. Life insurance is paid out nearly immediately, and it can be purchased in small or large amounts. It is necessary to discuss what life insurance is currently in place, and if none, what can be done to get an affordable policy if it is required.

Other financial matters that play a role in end of life planning include property and other assets that are intended to be passed down to beneficiaries. Talking with a parent about what assets are out there, how they are structured or titled, and where they are held is the first step. Then, it is essential to ensure beneficiaries on accounts are updated based on the parent’s desires, or that certain assets are earmarked for specific transfers upon death.

Recording Final Wishes and Plans

Once adult children have had an opportunity to discuss end of life planning with aging parents, there are specific documents which should be set in motion to ensure final wishes are followed through. Having a will is helpful in that is allows the parent to list an executor – the person who will be responsible for managing the transfer of assets and paying debts when the parent passes away. A will also offers an opportunity to list out specifics for final arrangements, detailed beneficiaries, and the distribution of other personal property to heirs. It may also be beneficial to create an advanced directive and establish a power of attorney in the event a parent is incapable of making decisions about their treatment or care.

Taking these steps to discuss end of life planning with an aging parent can decrease the level of stress and confusion that often takes place when a loved one passes away.