How to talk to your parents about their estate plan
Talking to your parents about their estate plan may be awkward and even difficult for many reasons. Death is challenging to think about, especially when it comes to your own family members. However, it is important to understand their wishes and have them in writing. If you have not yet had a conversation with your parents about their estate plans, the holidays may be a good time to do so.
What is an estate plan?
An estate plan is a legal method of disbursing a person’s property during their lifetime or after they pass away. Estate plans frequently contain a Will, Power of Attorney for Health, Power of Attorney for Property, and Declaration (also known as a Living Will). Some estate plans can expand to include more detailed documentation, such as a Revocable Trust, a Transfer on Death Instrument (TODI), and Supplemental Needs Trusts.
Why is it important to talk to your parents about estate planning?
Making sure your parents have an up-to-date estate plan can avoid issues both before and after their death. For example, having Powers of Attorney, both for healthcare and for property, can help avoid having to petition the court for guardianship/conservatorship if said parent becomes unable to make their own decisions.
Having an estate plan may also help to avoid certain complications when it comes to Probate and the distribution of assets after the death of your parents.
It is also important to know if you already have a role in their estate plan as an executor, trustee, power of attorney, etc. If you have been nominated for one of those roles, it is important that you make sure you know what to do and where all necessary information and/or documents are located.
How do I have a conversation with my parents about estate planning?
Ideally, when you are talking to your parents about their estate plans, all parties involved should participate in the discussion. This would include your siblings and other family members who may either be appointed as executors, trustees, or Powers of Attorney, or may be beneficiaries as named in the will or Trust.
When talking to your parents about estate planning, make sure to center the discussion around them. The intention is to support them and make sure their wishes are carried out, both throughout the rest of their lives and after their death. Additionally, do not try to push your parents in any specific direction unless they explicitly ask you for advice or guidance.
If you bring it up and they don’t want to discuss it right away, make a plan to have the conversation later. Do not wait until an illness or other life-changing event occurs.
Some important questions to ask are:
- Do you already have estate planning documents? Are they up to date? Changes in life circumstances (birth, death, marriage, divorce, etc.) can make it necessary to update estate planning documents.
- Who are/will be your executors, trustees, and Powers of Attorney? Who do you want to be your guardian and/or conservator if that ever becomes necessary?
- Are all your assets properly titled and all beneficiary designations correct?
- Do you have living wills or healthcare directives? What are your wishes when it comes to health care? Where would you like to live should it become impractical to live independently?
- Where are important documents and information located?
- Do you already have an estate planning attorney or would you like help finding one?
If your parents decide it is time to create or update their estate plan, we are happy to help. Located a stone’s throw off the Mississippi, Greenwood Law services citizens of both Iowa and Illinois for Estate Planning, Guardianships, Tax Matters, and more. Contact us to schedule a no-cost initial consultation over the phone or at our office.