None of us likes to consider our own mortality. For our older loved ones, it’s an even more confronting topic and difficult to discuss.

When Lindsay became ill, his family’s priority was to support him through his treatment, and keep him positive and as comfortable as possible.

Typical of his generation, Lindsay had always been very private, never sharing personal information – not even with his nearest and dearest. After he passed away, it dawned on the family that nobody knew whether Lindsay would have preferred cremation or burial. At such an emotionally charged time, the question caused quite a dispute among his family.

As parents, we aim to have open dialogue with our children over issues like drugs, sex, etc. But as our parents age, difficult discussions around medical arrangements, Wills, money, etc, are usually put off until something occurs to trigger the talk. Often, by then it’s too late, which is why it’s so important to communicate while you still can and ensure all appropriate arrangements are in place.

Once Lindsay’s funeral was over, the family faced more complex questions: Did Lindsay have a Will? Was there any insurance? What investments and assets did he have? Trying to locate Lindsay’s paperwork and make sense of his finances became a nightmare and led to a major falling out among his family, particularly after it became clear he didn’t have a Will.

If only someone had asked him.

What should you talk to your parents about?

If you think about all those things you’d rather not discuss you’re off to a good start.

Before the conversation, consider:

  • Finances, assets, investments, accounts, insurance policies, etc
  • Will:
    • Is it current?
    • Where is it kept?
    • Who is the executor?
    • Are there any assets or investments in super or in trusts and companies controlled by your parents?
  • Medical:
    • Medications
    • Enduring Powers of Attorney
    • Advance Health Directives
  • Funeral preferences
  • Aged care arrangements, family home, care facilities
  • Location of important documents
  • Usernames and passwords for online accounts
  • Contact details for doctor, financial adviser, trustees, attorneys, solicitor, executor, etc.

Carefully consider your approach. These are sensitive topics; introduce them gently and tactfully. It may be helpful to involve their executor, financial adviser or accountant.

During the conversation:

  • Extend an invitation
    Invite your loved one to express their feelings and articulate their wishes. Present the discussion as a means to making their life more manageable and making sure they’re arrangements are in order. Stress that you’re not taking over, but that you care and that they are in control.
  • Present an example

Use examples of challenges faced by others, explaining that you hope to avoid the same situation. Tell them you’d like to help them organise their paperwork to provide peace of mind and a plan for their future.

  • Support independence

Point out that you’re not reducing their independence but ensuring they maintain their independence as long as possible.

  • Don’t judge

As your loved one opens up, listen respectfully and without judgement. Encourage discussion around their choices so you can understand and help implement them.

Afterwards, follow up and fulfil any promises you made.

Finally, just when you think your job is done, have the same discussion with your children, only in reverse. Be clear about what you want and why you’re talking to them.

Children don’t want to think about your mortality any more than you do. They’ll think you’re overreacting and probably won’t thank you for the information – not right now anyway. But that’s the nature of kids.

The main thing is that when your time comes, they’ll realise you’ve saved them a lot of heartache.

Hopefully the comments in this article have provided you with a good framework for the discussion.  However, if you have any questions about what other matters might need to be addressed or any specific questions about Wills, Enduring Powers of Attorney or superannuation that might be relevant to the discussion, please give us a call.

We also offer all of our clients a complimentary document called an Executor’s Dossier which provides a useful way for someone to collate all the important information that any executor or attorney is likely to need to make their job a little easier when the time comes.  Contact WGC Lawyers online.