December 28th, 2014
by Elizabeth Ecker
It’s not a discussion most families look forward to; in fact many avoid the topic at all costs: finances and estate planning. The Wall Street Journal consulted several experts on the topic to share advice for those who are broaching it with aging parents.
Having the “talk” sooner rather than later is a tip noted again and again among the experts.
“I often see people wait too long or never have the talk at all, then when they should be mourning the loss of a loved one they are scrambling to find essential documents,” writes Michelle Perry Higgins, a financial planner and principal at California Financial Advisors.
“The biggest mistake people make when it comes to discussing their aging parents’ finances is putting it off until the time seems right,” says Eleanor Blayney, consumer advocate of the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards.
Yet preparation and a proactive approach can go a long way, they say, in learning about parents’ finances, and planning for the future with them.
Among their advice: don’t put the conversation off; discuss the possibility of cognitive impairment early; don’t make any assumptions; and get a second opinion from a professional planner.
“The key to all of this is not to take away any of your parents’ independence nor manage their money from them,” writes Charles Rotblut, vice president with the American Association of Individual Investors. “Rather, you want to set up a system of safeguards in case something does happen and you need to be more involved. Your goal is prevention, not unnecessary intervention.”