A recent study shows that although 69% of parents believe they’ve talked with their children about their estate plans, only 48% of children agree. This means that 52% of people with living parents likely have no idea if their parents have a plan or, if they do, what that plan is. When circumstances inevitably change, scrambling to find documents (that may or may not exist) only complicates an already emotional time.
Of course, it’s not an easy subject to bring up. But having the discussion now will make things easier on everyone in the long run.
Keep in mind, we don’t necessarily recommend asking how much money you’ll get when your parents pass or who will get to keep the house (although, in certain circumstances, these questions may not be out of line). Instead, it’s probably better to focus on more practical matters.
Below, we’ve identified three key areas of discussion that are beneficial to everyone.
Have they put a plan in place?
The details of the plan don’t matter as much (for now) as whether or not any sort of plan exists. Without one, you (and your siblings, if any) will likely have a lot of work on your hands if/when your parents become incapacitated or deceased. For example, if Mom is in a nursing home with dementia, who has access to her bank account to pay her bills? When both parents pass, will you have to administer their estate through the probate court?
If your parents don’t have a plan, this is a great opportunity to encourage them to put one in place to ease the complexity and burden it could otherwise put on you (and their other children or loved ones).
If they do have a plan, where is it?
When the time comes, it is important that your family can find your parents’ necessary documents (such as wills, trusts and powers of attorney). Whether it’s you or someone else, make sure your parents have told someone where the documents are and how they can be accessed. Remember, if they keep their documents in a safety deposit box, no one can access it without either (1) a power of attorney or (2) having been specifically authorized at the bank by the box owner.
Who will be be your parents’ agent(s) under a power of attorney?
Whether for medical or financial reasons, it is important to know who your parents have designated as their agent under a power of attorney. If important medical decisions need to be made on your parents’ behalf, knowing who they’ve authorized to make those decisions can be critical. This can reduce or eliminate a large amount of confusion – particularly if they’ve chosen someone unexpected.
These topics are a good place to start healthy discussion. Of course, each family is different, and each family’s dynamics are different.
If you or your parents have any questions about estate planning matters, feel free to contact Fenton & Grimwood at (417) 335-3550.