Dear Mom and Dad: Are Your Finances Ready for Retirement?

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Liza Hanks, partner at GCA Law Partners L.L.P. in California, doesn’t put a will at the top of her list of important estate planning documents.

“Power of attorney and advanced health care directives allow adult children to help parents if they’re incapacitated either short term or long term,” said Ms. Hanks, author of “Every Californian’s Guide to Estate Planning: Wills, Trust & Everything Else.” “When I work with clients, I call them the not-dead-yet documents. You’re not dead, but you need someone to help you.”

It’s always preferable to use an estate planning lawyer when drawing up legal documents, but Ms. Hanks doesn’t see an issue with using the online do-it-yourself options for people who feel they can’t afford or don’t want to pay for a lawyer’s time. She cites Nolo and Quicken WillMaker as two options.

“Online options are better than nothing,” Ms. Hanks said. “If you do them properly and follow the instructions, they will be valid.”

Feeling awkward about asking your parents about estate planning? Return to your own life experiences to bring up the topic — after all, you need these documents too. One script you might want to use: “My partner and I recently drew up a power of attorney and advanced health care directives and had to have a lot of discussions about who to designate as our backups. How did you two decide who to name?”

Another consideration is ensuring both parents know how to access all the legal and financial paperwork and pay all the household bills. Ms. Weston suggests using a service like Everplans to digitally store all the important documents as well as passwords.

For some adult children, their parents will consistently shut down efforts to talk about retirement and estate planning. It’s important to remember that this conversation can span months or even years, if you have the time. It also might not be a resistance to discussing the topic with you; it could be a contentious issue between them.

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