For both parents and adult children, confronting the prospect of each other's deaths can be uncomfortable. Privacy around financial matters is often a key concern, even among close family members.
However, when it comes to estate planning, there are often important financial and personal benefits to being transparent and having sensitive conversations. For example, you might presume one of your likely survivors would be comfortable managing a certain asset or serving as trustee, when in reality that person is not interested in the responsibility.
From the survivors' perspective, it's important they understand your intentions and plans for your estate. Lack of clear communication during estate planning (or an inadequate or outdated plan) not only can reduce the amount your beneficiaries receive, it can also result in uncertainty and conflict for them in an already difficult time.
If you do most of the work on your family's finances, you'll want to be certain of your survivors' comfort level with taking on the task and their understanding of your intentions. For some, it may be best for a professional to assume the responsibility.
Survivors may even make decisions based on incorrect ideas of what the deceased would have wanted. For example, when communication is lacking, some surviving spouses think honoring their loved one means keeping investments exactly as they were at the time of death. Eventually, this could lead to an outdated portfolio and missed growth opportunities.