Eight Tips for Discussing Estate Planning with Your Aging Parents
Unless you’re certain your parents have an up-to-date will, as well as a big-picture plan for what should happen in the event of their passing, you shouldn’t assume everything will be taken care of. During this season of upcoming holidays, these could present comfortable moments to approach the uncomfortable subject of death and preparation. According to a 2017 survey, 60% of Americans do not have a will prepared. If your mother or father dies without a will, not only will you be faced with added emotional strain and stress, it would likely have financial implications for all their children and/or other family members.
1. Make a List of Estate Planning Topics and Plan What You Can
Discussing estate planning and all it entails is not something that should happen without any planning. Make a list of topics and questions, then let your parents know what you want to chat about with them. If possible, set a time and date and choose a private venue that everyone will feel comfortable in. Be aware that you may need to schedule a few conversations as there could be too much to cover in one sitting. Remember to use language that’s respectful and supportive, and to take a breather if emotions run high or the stress becomes overwhelming.
2. Identify Key People for Estate Planning Purposes
There are several key people you may need to contact for estate planning purposes. Ask your parents for the names and contact details of their: Doctors, Attorney, Financial planner and/or accountant, Insurance brokers, Minister of religion, Closest friends
3. Address the Topic of a Will
Determine whether there is an existing will in place and whether the document is up to date. If a will was created more than five years ago, check to see if they’d consider reviewing it to ensure it’s a true reflection of their wishes. Establish where they keep the document and confirm who they’ve appointed as the executor/s. The same goes for any trust that may have been created.
4. Talk About Power of Attorney
5. Discuss End-of-Life Wishes
Even though the subject may be uncomfortable to talk about, you should discuss your parents’ end-of-life wishes with them. Their estate plan will be incomplete without these directives, so it’s important to include them. The form those directives take depend on the state in which you live, and they may include:
- The appointment of a health care power of attorney who can make medical decisions for your parents if they become incapable of making those decisions themselves. You can obtain the relevant forms from an elder law attorney or from a hospital or nursing home
- A medical or advance directive that explains what sort of care they would like and whether life support should be used to keep them alive or not. These directives can be included in the document that appoints the health care POA.
- A living will contains instructions regarding the withdrawal or termination of life support under specific conditions, such as your parents becoming terminally ill, becoming comatose, or entering a vegetative state
- Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST), which provides more explicit directives regarding the type of treatment your parents would or wouldn’t want
6. Ask About Insurance Policies
Talk about the type of insurance policies in place. That includes: Health insurance – Medicare or private, life insurance, home insurance, long-term care insurance, disability insurance, etc. In some cases, there may be seniors funeral insurance or other policies intended to cover funeral or burial payments. You’ll need to know about these too and have all their details - especially beneficiaries named as well as names and contact details of the insurance brokers. Check where the policy documents are kept, and if possible, make certified copies of them.
7. Request Access to Tax Returns
It can be helpful to know where tax return paperwork is stored. While these documents may not be necessary after death, they could be required if the estate becomes complicated. Confirm where you can find these documents and that they’re all up to date.
8. Discuss All Other Practicalities
In addition to subjects such as power of attorney and insurance, there are several other practicalities you should include in your conversations.
- Make a list of their accounts – financial accounts such as bank and mutual fund, credit accounts, and store accounts
- Check if they are registered organ donors or whether they would consider donating their organs
- Talk about the memorial service they want and whether they want to be buried, cremated, or some other option.
Contact Us - Your Local Estate Planning Attorney
At Joseph L. Motta Co., we have made it our mission to help clients in similar situations to prepare the estate planning documents that will ensure they leave a legacy, not a predicament. Let us help you review your estate planning documents. Please call our office at 440-930-2826 to schedule a free consultation .
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