Summary: If you have been trying to find the right time and place to talk to your parents about their estate plans, you may want to consider bringing the topic up during the holidays, while the family is together and in good spirits. Siedentopf Law shares some advice on how to start the estate planning conversation.
If you have been trying to find the right time and place to talk to your parents about their estate plans, you may want to consider bringing the topic up during the holidays. With Thanksgiving next week and the holiday season almost in full swing, now is the perfect time to start planning for such important discussions.
The holiday season provides a great opportunity to discuss estate planning because families are gathered in person, in one place, and they are not as distracted by work or other day-to-day obligations. While it may seem awkward to initiate this kind of conversation, it is important to determine whether your parents have protections in place when it comes to their estate and their final wishes. There are a couple of different ways you can gently approach the topic. You can test the atmosphere first by having a series of brief/smaller conversations with other family members, or, you can wait for an opening in a group conversation (ex: a parent telling a story about a family heirloom). You could also initiate the discussion by asking your parents for advice about your own estate planning options. Or, you can have a family member who best relates to your parents to raise the subject; this way, your parents are more likely to be open to a discussion of estate planning.
Once you introduce the subject matter, there are a couple of items you should definitely ask your parents about. Those include:
- If they have an Advance Directive for Health Care in place (the document that memorializes their medical wishes for end-of-life care and appoints a person designated to make medical decisions on their behalf)
- If they have a Financial Power of Attorney (the document that appoints a person designated to make financial decisions on their behalf)
- If they have a Last Will and Testament, and if so, if the document is up to date
- If they have a Trust or Family LLC or any other documents governing their assets
- Where are all these documents are stored and whether they can be accessed in an emergency
Remember, the goal of the discussion is not to find out what these estate planning documents contain or to obtain an asset for yourself. It is to determine whether your parents have carefully considered what they want to have happened with their estate and if they have appropriately memorialized those wishes. Knowing whether your parents have an estate plan in place can save you stress and frustration in an emergency. It can also provide peace of mind knowing that your parents’ financial, medical, and legal affairs are in order – and that they have selected the appropriate person to carry out their wishes.
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