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There are some things no one wants to think about until they have to, like caregiving for your parents as they age and figuring out what happens to your finances when you die. But planning for these events now can spare you and your loved ones a lot of hassle later on.
The first step is to simply talk about the inevitable.
“Think about the people you care about. Would your life be better if you never brought this subject up? Or would everyone’s lives improve if you did?” says Lauryn Williams, a certified financial planner and owner of Worth Winning, a Dallas-based financial planning firm.
“Getting the conversation going is a gamechanger for being able to tackle these topics,” she says.
OK, your death and your parents getting older don’t make for light dinner-table conversation. But there are ways to ease into each of these uncomfortable topics.
How to have the caregiving conversation
Millennials are currently the “sandwich generation,” says Frank Paré, a CFP and president and managing partner at PF Wealth Management Group in Oakland, California. That means they’re responsible for bringing up their kids while also thinking about how to care for aging parents.
The pandemic might have forced you to have frank discussions with your parents about their health care situation. You can use that momentum to approach conversations about the type of care they would prefer later in life, whether it’s moving in with you, going to assisted living or having in-home care.
Williams suggests making a list of open-ended questions to get the ball rolling, such as “What would you want to happen if you suddenly got ill?” or “How do you see me being a part of your retirement?”
Talk about what resources your parents plan to use to pay for care, Paré says. Do they have a life insurance policy? Are they on Social Security? Do they have a pension? Will they need to look into long-term care insurance? This type of insurance covers chronic conditions, disabilities or disorders. If your parents don’t have it or can’t afford to buy it, you can purchase it for them, he says.
Having the conversation allows you to prepare now if you need to start setting money aside for caregiving.
Estate planning is for everyone
Contrary to what you might think, estate planning is not just for the wealthy. It’s also not limited to married couples or those with children.
Handing down your assets and handing over your financial responsibilities often involves making a will, creating an advance health care directive for if you’re incapacitated and even having a separate digital will for your online life that includes login credentials and instructions on what to do with your social media accounts or assets like cryptocurrency.
A simple first step you can take now is to log into all your financial accounts and designate a beneficiary for each one. Then you can turn to the bigger questions.
“The work starts with you sitting down and asking — what would you want to see happen if you were no longer around?” Paré says.
Yes, it can be overwhelming to think about something bad happening to you. But creating a detailed estate plan spares your loved ones from having to sort out your financial affairs while also grieving your loss. It can also minimize the potential likelihood of probate, which is the long legal process for distributing your property after you die.
You can use an estate plan to make your wishes and priorities clear, such as appointing a guardian for your children, deciding what happens to your beloved pet, or donating your money to a cause you care deeply about. (Asking your parents for their advice can also trigger a conversation about their estate plan and caregiving needs.)
Williams suggests asking yourself these questions to make the process feel less abstract:
What would happen if I were in the hospital for a while?
What if I were incapacitated and had to undergo surgery: Who would I want to make the decision for me?
Who would pay the bills or walk the dog while I could not?
If you start writing down your answers, you’ve already taken the first step toward making an estate plan. You’ll need to hire a lawyer when you’re ready to officially move forward.
This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press.