The family was baffled. Not only was the will out of date, but it was also unsigned, and the person named as executor had died a decade before their mother died. During their mother's illness, they scrambled to find her paperwork and had no idea what her wishes were for her care.
As described in the article “Mom, Do You Have a Will?” from Next Avenue, it is not unusual because many older adults and their children are equally reticent to discuss death. It’s a tricky topic to address, but without these conversations, how can you make sure the transition after they pass is smooth?
Talk to your Parents about Their Estate Plan.
Who needs a will or an estate plan? Pretty much everyone does. If your parents don’t have an estate plan, here are some talking points to remind them of why it matters:
Make Sure Estate Planning Documents are In Place.
Single people need a plan for their assets, especially if they are in a committed relationship but not married. Many state inheritance laws make no provision for a domestic partner. If a relationship is recognized before a loved one dies, the remaining partner can access their right to property or benefits.
When someone dies without a will or a revocable trust, known as intestate succession, estate assets are distributed according to rules set out in state law, which vary from state to state and may not be what they would have wanted.
It is not Just About the Will or Trust.
Some parents will tell us they have an estate plan, however, as in the example, this may or may not be accurate. Their will may be old, no longer relevant to their situation, or in some cases not correctly executed. They may not have a power of attorney, health care proxy, or a living will. These are essential for aging parents and allow you to assist them as they become infirm.
Clarifying the status of an older adult’s will is essential to a smoother transition of assets and needs to be addressed when they are of sound mind and able to make their own decision about their estates.
The conversation is more manageable when preparing to discuss with someone active and healthy. So ask your parents if they have an estate plan and let them tell you their wishes when their infirm and after they have passed. You can explain how these steps are essential for their care. You can ensure they create their legacy and protect their family from estate taxes and expensive court oversight.
Have the Conversation Today.
When a person is seriously ill, this is a more complex conversation. Acknowledge the difficulty and let them know they can stop the discussion if necessary. It may take more than a few conversations to get to everything. Discuss these issues with respect and empathy. Offer ideas and options and steer clear of any ultimatums.
Talk with us we can review what you need for your specific family. Estate planning does not need to be a daunting task, but it is important to ensure that your loved ones are taken care of in the event of your death. We focus on estate planning and can guide you through the proper choices, based on your unique situation. We will help you to determine who will receive your assets, how they will be distributed, and how your estate will be managed. We will also provide you with information on estate taxes and how to minimize their impact. Our goal is to help you make the best choices for your family so that they can continue to live comfortably after you are gone.
Reference: Next Avenue (Sep. 14, 2022) “Mom, Do You Have a Will?”