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When should I talk to my aging parents about what they'll need?

If you are like most people in Arkansas, you don't imagine yourself ever being in a situation of dire need. The normal routine is that you work hard, earn a living and live within your means. If you are thinking ahead, you are contributing to a retirement plan so you will be able to live out your golden years without too much worry. If you haven't started such planning, it would be wise to begin, including estate planning as part of the project.

Now let's add a layer of concern that perhaps you haven't focused on too much, your parents. If you are like most folks, you have a great relationship with the loved ones in the older generation. Mom and dad are probably still vibrant and taking care of themselves, but what would happen if they suddenly became destitute, lost their home or suffered a medical trauma that left them in need of long-term care? Do they have a plan? Do you know what it is? What role might they be expecting you to play?

Unfortunately, these are questions that don't get answered until the pressure is on. What can result is a great deal of confusion and frustration. Expectations are unknown. That's why those with experience in this area agree that the answer to the question posed in the title of this post is, now. And the scope of the conversation should be comprehensive.

If you don't believe there is a need, consider this. Fidelity Investment just recently issued the results of their third annual Family and Finance report. The company surveyed a pool of families, selecting one adult child and one parent from each. What the report reveals is that there is a significant gap between parents and children regarding what the two generations expect from each other as the older one ages, and it can all be raced back to a failure to communicate.

Most respondents on both sides of the divide said they have not had in-depth conversations about key issues such as finance needs in retirement, long-term care, estate planning. The poll further showed that family members disagree about 30 percent of the time about whether children even know where key documents such as wills, powers of attorney and health care directives, are if they exist.

These are matters that deserve attention now.

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