Your Parents’ Estate Plan
How to Ask About Your Parents’ Estate Plan
Talking about estate planning is one of the most sensitive and emotional topics among family members. Death or incapacity is never the best topic during family gatherings, and this is understandable, because no one finds their death or incapacity as a comfortable point of discussion.
However, making an estate plan is an essential part of preparing for the future. It ensures that there are measures in place to control, manage, and distribute your hard-earned properties among your loved ones and to ensure that taxes won’t eat up most of the estate that you set aside for your family.
Sadly, 60 percent of Americans do not understand the importance of a will or an estate plan. Thus, there is a need for family members to check whether each others’ estate plans are in place in the event of the inevitable.
What is an Estate Plan
To initiate a conversation about your parents’ estate plan, you should know first what an estate plan is. Estate planning involves the transfer of your estate when you die or are in any way incapacitated.
Estate refers to properties you acquired throughout your lifetime. This includes cash, cars, houses, jewelry, land, retirement, savings accounts, investment, etc.
That is why regularly updating an estate plan is necessary to ensure that its details are still relevant and that they still meet your needs. Life events change the circumstances surrounding your estate plan, and this could lead to problems in the execution of the plan.
The following is a list of the usual objectives and goals of an estate plan:
To determine the beneficiaries to whom you intend to transfer most of the estate
To reduce the possible taxes that gets deducted from your property
To look after the minors who need guardians as they receive their part of the estate
A well-crafted estate plan can provide all these things upon the plan’s execution as long as you’ve worked with an expert who helped you understand your estate plan and how to make it work in your favor.
A professional can help make sure you meet the basic qualifications for estate planning. First, you must be legally competent to make an estate plan. Legal competency means that you are of sound mind and legal age. You should be in good health and free from emotional stress. If you are qualified, you can contact a lawyer that specializes in estate planning.
Since an estate plan includes a comprehensive review of your assets, you need to know the following:
Will - A legal document that indicates how your property will be managed and distributed after your death. It includes the recipient of your property, or the beneficiaries, and how much of it will be given.
Trust - An arrangement that involves one person or organization with whom you entrust your property. This person or organization is called a trustee. The trustee gets taxed for managing on behalf of the beneficiaries.
Power of Attorney - This legal power is granted to a person or an organization to manage all your affairs when you can’t do so. The appointed person or organization is called an ‘attorney-in-fact’ or ‘agent.’
How To Ask Your Parents About Their Estate Plan
Now that you are familiar with the basics of estate planning, you can begin asking about your parents’ estate plan. Here are some pointers that can help you start the conversation and maintain it without pushing the wrong buttons:
1. Be ready with the most basic questions to ask about your parents’ estate plan.
You should be prepared with the right questions or you are risking an emotional situation that you might not be able to handle. You may use this list as a guide:
Ask your parents…
if they have an estate plan
if it is current or updated within 8-10 years
where they store the documents
who can access them
if they have a Will or Revocable Living Trust (RTL)
if they have a Durable Power of Attorney
if they have a Declaration of Patient Advocacy
Whatever your parents’ reasons behind their preferred terms in their estate plan, respect them. Do not put them on the defensive. They might get sensitive when you question their decisions.
If necessary, you can always refer them to an expert who can help them polish and update their estate plan for better execution when needed.
2. Find situations where you can discuss their estate plan if they have any.
You can’t simply open the topic of estate plans in the middle of a family dinner nor can you ask about it as if everyone is comfortable with the idea of death. Always consider the circumstances, so you need the proper situation to bring up the conversation.
Here are some situations that you can take advantage of to ask about your parents’ estate plan:
When either of your parents have mentioned mortality, take it as a cue to discuss their estate plan.
If there is a mention of a friend’s or relative’s funeral, start the conversation.
If someone the family knows becomes critically ill, ask about that person’s estate plan, if s/he has an advance directive and power of attorney, then follow it up with a discussion of your parents' estate plan.
Ask your parents for advice regarding your estate plan, then ask about the details about theirs, how they handled the will or trust, and ask for a referral.
Lastly, set up an appointment with your parents so that they won’t be caught off guard when you begin asking about their estate plan.
3. Set the right context for why you want to talk about it.
The topic of an estate plan may be uncomfortable to discuss especially when your parents are old. However, it is a must that you assist them in ensuring that all legalities are in place in case they are needed. Thus, always start your conversation with context.
Here are some ways to establish the proper context before asking about their estate plan:
Tell them that you are also uncomfortable talking about it, but there is a need to ensure that their plan will be executed properly so that their hard-earned properties won’t be taken by the state due to a surge in taxes.
Mention that you don’t want to talk about it, either, but you want to ensure that their wishes are respected when the time comes and that you will carry out their wishes.
Tell your parents that losing them is one of the things you don’t look forward to, but you don’t want other people assuming that their decisions are your parents’ decisions in the absence of a written estate plan.
4. Send them to an expert to create their estate plan or update their existing one.
Asking for the help of an attorney specializing with estate planning will help your parents see things objectively and set aside the emotional side of the discussion.
For More Help On Your Parent’s Estate Plan, Call Andrea Aston
Call Andrea Aston for legal services in estate planning and ensure that your parents have the updated plan that they need.
With her years of experience, Andrea Aston has the knowledge and expertise to guide you through every step of the estate plan process.
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