Communicating your end-of-life wishes to your adult children is never easy. For many parents, it’s easier to wait until the time is “right” than to ruin a precious family moment by talking about end-of-life care and important financial matters.
Unfortunately, too many families end up waiting until it’s too late to have these discussions. Instead, critical conversations often take place for the first time inside an emergency room, when loved ones are facing difficult decisions that will affect the entire family for years to come.
Of course, no one plans to put their family members in a situation where they must make vital decisions under duress. Nevertheless, parents often create unnecessary stress, confusion, and conflict for their children by failing to prepare them for such a crisis.
To avoid potentially costly missteps and missed opportunities, it’s important to prepare your children and other loved ones for a worst-case scenario before it happens.
The Benefits of Open and Honest Communication
End-of-life discussions can be uncomfortable for many families. However, the benefits of having open and honest conversations about your intentions and preferences with your loved ones tend to far outweigh the costs.
First, addressing your end-of-life wishes helps ensure everyone is on the same page when it comes time to make key decisions. This can help prevent misunderstandings and resentment among family members who may have differing opinions.
Furthermore, these conversations can strengthen your relationships in many cases and create a sense of unity and support within the family. It can also provide an opportunity for adult children to ask questions, seek clarification, and provide input into decision-making processes.
Lastly, discussing your end-of-life care and financial objectives with your family can help you create an estate plan that’s truly aligned with your values and goals. Ultimately, it can give you peace of mind knowing your loved ones and assets are protected for generations to come.
Why Every Parent Needs an Estate Plan
While most adults understand the importance of sound financial planning, few take the necessary steps to communicate or document their end-of-life wishes. In fact, only one in three Americans has an estate plan, according to Caring.com’s 2023 Wills and Estate Planning Study.
There are many reasons people avoid estate planning. Some believe it’s only for the ultra-wealthy, while others prefer not to think about their own mortality. In some cases, people procrastinate simply because they’re overwhelmed by the idea of estate planning and don’t know where to start.
However, everyone can benefit from having an estate plan, especially if you have children. Specifically, every parent should have an advance healthcare directive and durable power of attorney to legally document your end-of-life intentions.
Advance Healthcare Directive
An advance healthcare directive, also known as a living will, outlines your wishes for medical treatment and end-of-life care in case you become unable to communicate or make decisions for yourself. It also allows you to name someone to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you’re unable to do so yourself.
Without an advance directive, your family members may not know your wishes or agree on a course of action. Furthermore, medical professionals may provide treatments that don’t align with your values or quality of life preferences in an effort to prolong your life. An advance healthcare directive ensures that your healthcare aligns with your personal beliefs and wishes, even when you can’t communicate them yourself.
Durable Power of Attorney
A durable power of attorney gives someone the legal authority to act on your behalf if you become unable to manage your financial affairs. This may include paying bills, managing investments, and making decisions about property and assets.
Without a durable power of attorney, your family members may have to go to court to get authority to make these decisions. This process is often time-consuming, expensive, and emotionally draining.
How to Take the First Step
Before discussing your end-of-life wishes with your loved ones, it’s important to be clear about what you want. You may need to take some time to educate yourself on your options and do some soul searching before involving your family in your decision.
Once you’re clear on your intentions, make sure you share them with your immediate family members. These discussions can help ensure your loved ones know and respect your wishes, and that your family is prepared to handle the responsibilities that come with managing your affairs after you’re gone.
Most importantly, don’t wait until a crisis strikes, such as a health emergency or unexpected death, to initiate these important conversations. Instead, choose a time when everyone is calm and relaxed, and try to avoid distractions and interruptions.
While the conversation may get emotional at times, do your best to share your wishes, concerns, and expectations clearly and objectively. In addition, encourage your family to ask questions and share their own thoughts and concerns, and try to understand their perspective. Remember, this is an opportunity to strengthen your relationships and create a plan that everyone can support.
It may also be helpful to involve a neutral third party such as a wealth advisor and/or estate planning attorney to facilitate the discussion and offer guidance. Someone with expertise in these matters can help keep the conversation moving, provide clarity when necessary, and ensure your estate plan accurately reflects your wishes.
Give Your Family the Gift of Peace of Mind
Discussing end-of-life care and family financial matters may be uncomfortable, but avoiding these conversations can have serious consequences. Even so, only about half of older adults have had a conversation with their loved ones about their preferences for medical care if they’re unable to make decisions for themselves, according to University of Michigan’s National Poll on Healthy Aging.
Without clear instructions, your children may end up making decisions that don’t align with your values and goals. At the same time, misunderstandings and missteps can cost your family both financially and emotionally. By taking control of your estate plan now and communicating your wishes to your loved ones, you can avoid leaving your end-of-life care and financial decisions up to chance.
At CornerCap, we believe one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself and your loved ones is peace of mind. Our goal is to help you and your family navigate these challenging conversations and decisions with clarity and purpose.
By filling in the missing pieces of your financial plan now and making tough but necessary decisions about your future, you can enjoy confidence that your wealth and family are in good hands for generations to come. We invite you to schedule a meeting with us to discuss how we can assist your family in this important but often overlooked aspect of financial planning.