If you have been reading our blog then you know that this year—the year without a federal estate tax—is an important year, and that next year—when the estate tax returns—will be an even more important year for planning and reviewing your estate. You know this... but do your parents?
Kimberly Palmer, author of this article in U.S. News and World Report says that “bringing up the estate tax with your aging parents can be as awkward as inquiring after their sex life.” Talking about any kind of estate planning with your parents can indeed be awkward, but as Palmer points out it is extremely important... especially now when the repeal and reinstatement of the estate tax means that “ignoring the issue could mean giving Uncle Sam a big chunk of one's estate inadvertently.”
So how can you bring up the topic of estate planning with your parents without them thinking that you’re more interested in your inheritance than your parents’ well-being? The article mentioned above has a few ideas, including:
Talk about your own estate planning experienceand how relieved you are that everything is in place.
Talk about recent celebrity deathsthat have been in the news: George Steinbrenner, Michael Jackson, etc.
Mention how concerned you areabout the uncertain estate tax situation.
Of course, the best policy is to just be honest. Tell your parents truthfully that you are concerned about their financial stability, about keeping the family peace, about your grasping uncle Mickey taking the antique dining set you’ve loved since you were a child. Explain that you only want to help... but remember that the choice is ultimately theirs. As author Deborah Jacobs says in the article, "if they don't want to talk about money, then you need to drop it and accept that this is not something you should pursue... If you have tense times towards the end of your parents' life because you're talking about estate planning, it will stay with you forever, and it's just not worth it."