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Aging Parents | How to Help Prepare | Estate Planning | Finances | Family Affairs

Updated on August 31, 2012

Have you had the talk yet? You know the one about what happens when they become ill or pass on.

Having the planning talk with your parent(s) and if you have siblings now will likely save many headaches and disputes with the other siblings after the parent(s) become incapable to make decisions or pass on.

As the family comes together for the Holidays, there may not be a better time to schedule a family planning meeting with your parents and siblings. Leave the spouses out of it and keep the grand kids from causing distractions.

You know it is coming, the phone call in the middle of the night that mom or dad has fallen, or worse has passed on. Do you know what to do next? What were their wishes, where are the important papers, is there a living will, how much do they have in banking our savings, which banks do they use, are there life insurance policies, is there a lawyer to contact regarding a Will, do they qualify for Medicare and Medicaid, is there a burial plan? The list of questions can go on and on.

It is a very difficult discussion, as children we were taught to not ask personal questions and kept distant to the most delicate and sensitive discussions about life and death wishes of our parents. We would like to think they are somehow always going to be there, and we would rather just ignore that someday they won’t

Now as adults we will someday be faced with all these challenging and sensitive issues. Even the most close and open families can become greatly divided when it comes to dealing with end of life issues with our parents.

Without the talk now, you may never know your parents’ wishes, even worse you may come to find out they were so much in denial themselves that adequate planning never took place, and the estate ends up in probate court. Having the talk now can set the wheels in motion for all the affairs to be taken care of.

If you have siblings and end up trying to work through disorganized estate issues together, the chances are very good that disagreements, hard feelings and things said will leave deep hurtful scars for the rest of your lives.

Siblings living away will likely have busy schedules and just won't have much time to come and help with the cleanup of a house to ready for a sale, dealing with such things as outstanding medical bills, and chasing down bank accounts. It often is left to just one sibling who still lives close to home. The one left behind starts feeling resentment as if they are being dumped on.

The other siblings probably won't be available to help but they will likely have plenty of advice opinions and become the criticizer of the one sibling trying to handle the estate. They also won't likely have much understanding or sympathy of the time commitment it takes to research and hang on endless automated telephone calls to try and reach a live person. An unorganized estate can become a full time burden for a son or daughter left to deal with.

It is not at all uncommon for good sibling relationships to turn bitter and hateful during the passing of their parents. If it is not the siblings, their spouses can greatly influence the drama and jealously of who gets what in a sibling relationship. Many family wars start with senseless disputes over tribal and items of no value.

An entire family including even those made up of professionals who deal with these issues daily can become totally dysfunctional when they are trying to work through estate issues with other siblings.

If you are the only child or are the one who will likely be left holding the keys to the estate, discussing now with your parents all the important questions, locations of bank accounts, important papers, if a Will exists, there wishes on who they plan to pass on the family heirlooms is a future step in keeping family harmony in check.

If a family meeting is still needed, before the meeting occurs prepare a checklist to make the discussion easier. Start with the simpler things first to ease the tension and then move on to the more delicate and complex issues. Don’t expect to complete it in an hour, especially if you find your parents plans are not in place at all.

Type Family affairs checklist into your search engine and you will find several discussions and actual checklist to use in organizing and preparing your parents estate. One such site is

Without a legal standing Will and Last Testament, most states will require the estate to go into probate court. Unless there is already a mutual understanding of what heirlooms and property will be passed on to whom. The family Will and Last Testament, will probably be the most sensitive and difficult task to discuss with parents and other siblings.

The best solution may be to find a template or checklist off the Internet, and let your parent(s) fill in the blanks themselves. Just make sure they make the appointment to meet with an attorney to finalize it, so that everyone knows how to get a hold of it when the time comes.


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      Shasta Matova 6 years ago from USA

      This is so true, as hard a subject as it is to bring up, it is a necessary.