Worried About Your Parents’ Estate Plan?
An estate plan may not be among the things your parents prioritized during their lives. But you need to know whether or not your parents have put together an estate plan. While it is still your parent’s choice to make estate planning decisions, having a plan is critically important.
The thought of speaking with your parents about their finances and estate planning is daunting. Yet, having this conversation helps make sure your parents are able to peacefully live their golden years.
Estate Planning for Your Parents
Talking about the future with your parents is one of the most important conversations you can have with them. This includes estate planning. The earlier you address it the better. Look below at some key topics you need to discuss with your parents about their estate planning.
● A team effort:
Make sure to get a full list of their legal and financial professionals and their contact information. You should also have the contact information of your parents’ doctors.
● Last will and testament and a trust:
If your parents do not have a will written up, they likely do not have any other estate planning documents. If they have a will, who is the personal representative? Where are the original documents? A trust may be a better fit. Stress to them that you do not need to read the terms. You do, however need to know where the documents are. This will allow you to ensure their wishes are carried out.
● Advanced directives:
Make sure your parents have living wills and powers of attorney so that someone will be able to make decisions on their behalf if they are unable to do so, like in the case of becoming incapacitated (i.e. coma, severe head trauma). Also ensure you understand their respective feelings about end-of-life decisions, such as life support, and how their financial and medical affairs should be handled should they become incapacitated.
● Insurance policies:
Find out what insurance policies your parents have and where the policies are located in the event one or both become incapacitated. This includes knowing about health insurance (private or Medicare), life insurance, homeowners, auto insurance, disability insurance, and long-term care policies.
● Financial and investment accounts:
Your parents should also consider compiling a list of their brokerage, bank, and mutual fund accounts as well as the account numbers. This will make things easier if someone needs to step in and assist with financial matters due to their death or incapacity.
Why Estate Planning Matters
Failing to put together an estate plan often leads to chaos, unnecessary costs and taxes, potential hurt feelings, delays in distribution of assets, and even unexpected outcomes after death. For example, if your parents hold some assets in joint tenancy with a child who lives nearby but does not include other children, the distribution of the asset becomes distorted. When joint tenancy is used instead of an estate planning tool like a trust, adult children left behind will be offended as a result of the parents’ asset distribution.
Do not let fear or discomfort keep you from sitting down and having this important estate planning conversation with your parents. As estate planning attorneys at the Probate Law Group, we can give you and your parents advice on what options are available to them so that their wishes are followed upon their death.
Steps For Starting the End-of-Life Conversation.
No one wants to discuss death and dying. And yet, it’s a critical time in everyone’s life and one for which we know we need to prepare. While many people have the desire to share their wishes, something is preventing people from openly communicating with their families.
As an important part of estate planning, healthcare decisions need to be talked about. This helps preserve your legacy and provide peace of mind for your loved ones. You can rest easy knowing that if they need to act, they are carrying out your end-of-life wishes as you would want.
Steps to Talking with Your Parents about Their Estate Plan
If you’ve been dreading having this talk with your own parents, children or other family members, there are a number of steps you can consider.
Just Ask about the Estate Plan
Before launching into this difficult conversation, it’s not a bad idea to pose the question “when?” Ask your loved one when they might have time to discuss your estate planning and healthcare decisions. By introducing the topic in this matter, no one is caught off guard and it can help everyone to reflect on what they really want to communicate before sitting down. Schedule a time.
Aim for Clarity Regarding the Estate Plan
Do whatever you can to help make these conversations clear. Write out a list of major points you want to make ahead of time. Be prepared that your family may come with questions they want to ask about, who of the family members should be included in the decision-making process, parents’ preferences for memorials, etc. Simplicity and clarity can help neutralize the feelings of anxiety that everyone may be having and help everyone walk away from the conversation with the peace of mind they were hoping for.
Don’t Get Sidetracked without an Estate Plan
It’s pretty easy to get off course if you don’t have a plan and don’t have someone who is appointed to be a type of mediator for the conversation. A mediator is not required, but if everyone agrees on a mediator (the oldest child for example), then it can keep things on course. Likely no one really wants to talk about it, or would rather talk about something else. But you’ve got to get through it. So even though the conversation will no doubt be rife with opportunity to reflect, remember and opine, try to stay on task. You want to make sure that everyone walks away from the conversation with a better understanding than when it began.
Keep the Conversation Going
While it may feel like a one-time conversation because it’s emotional, or hard to have if your loved one lives far away, remember that it’s not a one-time deal. You are simply opening the lines of conversation, not setting anything in stone. Remembering this will help empower everyone to be open.
Need Assistance? Give Us a Call
Talking about your end of life decisions can be hard, but it is an essential part of estate planning. If you have any further questions about how to have these conversations or would like us to help facilitate this discussion, please feel free to contact Probate Law Group at 480.535.8000. We are here to help!