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Parents, adult kids need to have life talk

Important parent-child talks are difficult at any age, especially when it comes to discussing parents getting older and facing life changes and mortality. Estate planning is one of those essential discussions to have, no matter how touchy the subject.

A recent study by a leading investment firm showed that parents and their adult children have a hard time communicating about topics such as elder care, retirement planning and inheritances. The study showed that children are nervous about their parents' future health, as well as their own financial portfolios.

The discussion should begin prior to a parent's retirement, with the two generations talking about both retirement savings goals and life goals. It should touch on medical proxies, aging, health care, and things such as wills and trusts. With about seven in every 10 people needing long-term care of some sort, that issue should be brought to the table, as well.

That talk is crucial as early as possible because it should not be done in a crisis or when a parent has lost some mental capability. Decisions made in haste also can lead to animosity or disagreements between adult siblings or step-children, each of whom might have different expectations or ideas.

Another reason to have the talk early is that parents will have a better chance of enjoying their retirement. With financial and health care issues settled, parents will have less on their mind. That will lead to a more carefree retirement, with parents more physically and mentally fit, according to a retirement adviser.

After planning with their parents, children will have the joy of watching them enjoy a relaxing retirement. Parents will appreciate their children bringing up this essential conversation, tough as it could be. In truth, parents might not how to broach the topic and could be waiting for the children to start it.

Remember that an emergency could happen at any time, whether a health issue or an accident. It is best to encourage parents to put their wishes on paper when they are still in sound health and in tip-top mental shape.

Source: Market Watch, "Having 'the talk' about retirement," Jack Tatar, Dec. 24, 2012

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