Somehow, it’s easier to talk to a stranger – who your financial advisor once was – than to talk to your kids about your later-life wishes.

Maybe you’ve already made all your arrangements with the help of a professional team, or perhaps you’re just starting and looking for input. Either way, addressing specific topics will make any necessary life changes easier. 

Discussing Your Later-life Wishes

Your health preferences 

These include your advance care directives, which every adult should have. You’ll want a living will and a healthcare proxy, and you’ll each want to discuss your preferences regarding medical treatment, life support and end-of-life care. That will become a gift you’ve made when the time comes for someone to make tough decisions. 

You’ll also want to discuss long-term care, such as your views on assisted living, nursing homes or in-home care. Caregiver plans may change depending on which parent dies first or if the person you designated becomes unavailable. Discussing how to fund potential care needs is particularly vital, especially if long-term care insurance is unavailable.

Financial matters

Estate planning is Step One, discussing your will, trusts and other estate planning documents. Part of the conversation explains how you want your assets distributed and who will manage your affairs if neither parent can.

Specify your financial accounts and where information regarding bank accounts, your investments and other assets can be accessed eventually. Specific details are not needed, but your adult children should be aware if there are any debts or liabilities.

Lastly, you’ll want to share any funeral and burial arrangements you’ve made. If you haven’t, express your preferences for funeral or memorial services and burial or cremation.

Living arrangements and housing

Regarding housing preferences, discuss where you want to live as you age. These could mean staying in your current home, downsizing, moving to a retirement community or living with family members.

Home modifications to accommodate aging should eventually make their way into the conversation, including grab bars, ramps or other accessibility features. Making an existing home safe can be a costly proposition.

Decision-making and communication

Name the designated persons who will make medical and financial decisions when you or your spouse cannot do so. Clearly establishing the roles and responsibilities of your adult children will avoid conflicts at crucial times. Choosing decision-makers is rarely a “one-and-done” conversation; life events that affect those selected can change the family dynamic.

You’ll also want to agree on a communication plan that regularly updates your adult children about your health, general financial situation and any changes to plans that you and your spouse have made. 

Sentimental items and personal belongings

Explore with your adult children how you’d like sentimental items and family heirlooms to be distributed among family members. You might start with casual conversations about what each child would like to have. Having their input should help avoid conflicts that would arise from one-sided decisions.

If you plan to downsize, distributing personal belongings and decluttering could come much earlier. Again, involve your children in the distribution process in advance.

Your values and your legacy

Share your values with your adult children. They probably know intuitively, having spent their lives with you, but you likely have specific wishes regarding the family legacy. This subject is easily overlooked if not addressed intentionally.

If philanthropy is important to you and your spouse, discuss your charitable intentions – joint or individual – and involve your children in decisions about charitable contributions over the years.

What’s in it for you as parents? 

Sharing your later-life wishes with adult children may seem like a difficult undertaking, one that is riddled with minefields and likely to create rifts or hard feelings. However, the rewards of persevering and achieving productive discussions go way beyond the practical aspects of planning. They can contribute to a more harmonious and supportive family dynamic that ensures everyone feels heard, understood and prepared for an inevitable future.

So, what are your rewards as parents? They start with the peace of mind knowing your wishes and preferences are understood and respected. The journey alleviates stress related to uncertainty about the future, knowing your children are informed about your financial situation and are better prepared to handle matters responsibly. The process empowers you to actively shape your future and maintain a sense of control over your lives. And you know your family legacy and philanthropic contributions will be honored.

In short, planning for housing, health care, and other aspects of later life facilitates a smoother transition, minimizes disruptions, and ensures everyone is pulling together on the same team. 

What’s in it for your adult children?

Family harmony, solidarity, and shared responsibility are possible through open communication about later-life discussions. Conflicts among siblings or family members can be resolved. Adult children have the peace of mind of knowing they understand and are aligned with your wishes and expectations. 

The process reduces the anxiety of the unknown. Clearly defined roles and responsibilities empower adult children to move forward with confidence. An awareness of the family’s general financial situation also helps them make informed decisions about their own financial planning.

What may seem like an obstacle-ridden process can create a foundation for emotional support and family bonding. This strengthens their ability to provide comfort and assistance during challenging times. They’ll know what to do and why they are doing it. In a health crisis or emergency, having planned for such scenarios lets adult children act more decisively and in keeping with your wishes.

Sharing later-life wishes can bring tremendous benefits to all involved. However, it’s not a process undertaken easily. Don’t hesitate to ask for help from your professional support team.

At WH Cornerstone, we know each family will deal differently with the topics of ‘later life’ and ‘end of life.’ Because we work with clients each day to establish their needs and preferences, we are skilled at helping you share those needs and preferences with loved ones. It’s part of what we call Curve Ball Life Planning™.


Sharing your wishes is a journey well worth taking. To help you get started, download our Curve Ball™ Life Planning Workbook, “Prepare.” For help with any questions about the communications process, schedule a call with us to ensure family harmony. Let us know how we can help! 


Recent Posts

WH Cornerstone’s 2024 summer reading list

WH Cornerstone’s 2024 summer reading list

With summer in full swing, it's time to start crossing some of those books off of your summer reading list. If you've been searching for your next good book, look no further than our selection of summer reading recommendations, compiled by your WH Cornerstone team....

read more