No matter how wealthy you or your parents are, there are some critical questions to be asking them: Do they have an estate plan? Do they keep it up to date? When your parents become incapacitated or die, their affairs will become your responsibility and it will be impossible to ask them to clarify anything. So if you do not know whether or not they have estate planning in place that will help you best support them, read on.
The Best-Case Scenario
In a best-case scenario, your parents have an updated estate plan and they’ve walked you through it. They have provided an inventory of their assets that’s easy for you to find and it lists out everything they own, how it’s titled, and who it should go to and how. Ideally, it also includes directions on how to handle their non-monetary assets and an audio recording or written stories that pass on their values, insights, and experience. On top of all that, it’s best if they’ve introduced you to the lawyer who set it all up so you know who to turn to when the time comes.
If that’s not the case, you could have some holes to fill. If they’ve not done any planning at all, now is the time to encourage them to get it done and support them in through the process. If they already have a completed plan, it’s likely that it has been sitting on their shelf or in a drawer for years without being updated and potentially with no inventory of their assets and no way to capture and pass on their intangible assets. Even worse, their lawyer could have been using outdated systems that are no longer recognized which can lead to trouble down the road.
It’s also possible that their outdated estate plan no longer tracks with their current assets and may even require complex actions that are no longer necessary upon their death. Worst of all, you may have no idea what your parents own or how to find their assets and at their incapacity or death you’ll be left with a mess, even though your parents had good intentions and thought their planning was handled.
The Worst-Case Scenario
In a worst-case scenario (which we see more frequently than we’d like), your parents may have worked with someone who exerted undue influence over their decisions. This person may have led them to write something into their plan that they either didn’t really want to or wouldn’t otherwise have chosen if they understood all of their options.
No matter which of these scenarios you face, it’s critical for you to know who your parents have worked with to create their estate plan and how and why they made the choices they did. If you aren’t in the know, now is the time to find out.
If you and your parents are already discussing these matters but they have not yet included you, you can ask them to schedule a family meeting with their existing attorney. On your parents’ request, that attorney should look forward to walking you through your parents’ planning, the choices they made, and how you will be impacted in the event of their incapacity or death.
You want to develop a relationship with their estate planning attorney now. This advisor can be one of the most important supporters of you and your parents during your time of need. It’s a relationship you will want to establish before you need it, so you won’t be scrambling during a time of crisis.
If you need support to have these conversations with your parents, let us know. We can help.
This article is a service of Levi Alexander, Personal Family Lawyer®. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session,™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.