How do I talk to my parents about their Wills & Powers of Attorney?* …. My family never talks about money or personal stuff.
There are so many misconceptions about Wills & Powers of Attorney (POA’s) that make it a touchy subject, on top of dealing with the dynamics within our families. It is a difficult, but necessary topic of conversation, especially as our parents age.
Lets talk about misconceptions;
Pauline, if I ask about my parents’ Will/POA it may seem like I’m looking for an inheritance. I get it. Historically Wills are associated with leaving possessions / assets upon passing. This is only ONE element of a Will. The most important power of Will/POA documents, in my opinion, is that they give someone the authority to act on their behalf. In this day and age we need the authority those documents gives us to pay someone’s bills, or turn off their phone service, never mind to take action regarding their Estate. Having valid Wills & POA documents are the foundation of any Financial Plan.
I know from personal experience that executing a POA and/or a Will is not easy, even when their wishes have been clearly communicated through these documents. Now image having this responsibility without having the authority! Without this authority, the government will make the decisions which is a time consuming, expensive, frustrating and completely unnecessary process at a very difficult time for your family.
Here’s what you can do:
Have your own Will / POA documents prepared or updated. This is especially important if you have minor aged children. This will allow you to speak from personal experience and broach the subject by relaying your own efforts and learnings, in order to get the ball rolling.
This will also let your parents know that, if they don’t have a lawyer to prepare these documents for them, that you have one you can suggest that you already know.
Let your parents know that you don’t want to know WHAT is in their will or POA documents, just that i) they exist ii) where they can be found should they be needed and iii) that they have been reviewed in the past decade
Don’t wait, this conversation only gets more complex if health issues enter the equation
Understand that Will / POA documents aren’t just about what possessions or assets someone wants to leave when they pass. It’s about giving someone the authority to act on THEIR behalf. Our parents rely on us, let’s make sure they have the proper information so that we can act on their behalf when the time comes.
You may be surprised to find that your parents want to have this conversation with you, but they didn’t know how to bring it up.
*Power of Attorney documents include one for Property and one for Personal Care