Talking to Parents About Estate Planning & Dementia Concerns

Starting a conversation with aging parents about estate planning is a difficult but necessary task. No one likes to think about their own passing, but the longer these discussions are put off, the harder they become. This is becoming even more important since fewer and fewer seniors report having an estate plan. In a 2021 Wills and Estate Planning Study by Caring.com, only 44% of those 55 and older had a will, down from 60% just two years ago. And, these plans are especially important if your parents are suffering from a cognitive impairment such as dementia or Alzheimer’s. 

If you’d like assistance in helping your parents draw up a plan, call me today. At The Law Office of Gregory L. Williams, I’ve dedicated my practice to helping my clients plan for the future and provide for their families. My office is in Columbus, Ohio, but I’m able to serve clients throughout central Ohio.

Common Estate Planning Issues for People with Dementia

When estate planning for a parent with dementia, there are a few legal considerations to take into account. As much as possible, your parent should be involved in these discussions, as long as they’re able. As early as you can, you should work with an estate planning attorney and your parents to locate important legal and financial documents and assign a power of attorney for healthcare. This way, someone will have the legal capacity to make decisions on your parent’s behalf, ensuring their medical wishes are followed if they become incapable of communicating. 

Tips for Speaking With a Parent About Estate Planning 

While these conversations are difficult, they must happen. How you approach these topics can help improve outcomes for everyone:

  • Be patient: You won’t solve everything in just one conversation, so know that this is an ongoing process that will take time.
  • Enlist help: This could mean asking another sibling to partner with you in these discussions or hiring a lawyer that you both trust. This will help with transparency for the whole family, and people are more likely to accept facts if they hear them from more than one source.
  • Get organized: Identify all the necessary paperwork you’ll need and start gathering it now. You should also keep notes during your discussions so you have a record of all that’s been discussed. 
  • Stay focused: These discussions should stay focused on your parents and what their values, wishes, and financial decisions are — not yours. This is not a time to argue about who will be left with what asset, and you’re not trying to change their minds. 
  • The earlier the better: Estate planning for a parent with cognitive impairment is always hard, but the earlier you start, the better. Unfortunately, their condition is likely to worsen with time. 
  • Be flexible: You may also have to rework your expectations about scheduling these talks. With some degenerative diseases, a person will have good and bad days, and you should only have these conversations with a healthy parent who is lucid and able to take part. 

Estate planning for a parent with dementia, Alzheimer’s, or another cognitive disease can make locating physical assets or documents very hard. It’s essential that you find important documentation and have your parents communicate their estate plans to you as soon as possible. This should include healthcare planning as well as traditional estate planning. Make a list of everything you’re looking for and gain access to these right away. This could include wills, insurance policies, stock certificates, deeds, car titles, pension information, and access to any accounts.

The Law Office of Gregory L. Williams Can Help You

While it may seem like an impossible challenge, you can do this. Remember, your only goals are to help your parents and ensure their wishes are followed. If you’re in the Columbus, Ohio, area and would like help addressing any of these issues, call The Law Office of Gregory L. Williams today to set up a consultation.


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