Estate planning is an important part of life. When you plan your estate, you know exactly how your assets will be distributed when you pass.
As an adult child, it can be difficult to talk to aging parents about planning for the end of life, but it’s just as vital to talk to your parents about estate planning as it is to do your own.
Here’s how to approach the difficult topic of estate planning with your parents.
Importance of Estate Planning for Parents
Most parents want to know that their children are taken care of once they pass away. The same goes for children—when a parent passes away, no one likes to be surprised by what was or wasn’t included in their parent’s estate plan.
Planning out the estate allows the departing party a chance to write down their assets and provide guidance for legal teams on how to divide the assets. This means that the parents have more control over final decisions regarding where money, assets, and real property go, among other things.
This is especially important if there is a chance that the assets can go to a family member that the departing party does not desire to get the assets or if you have a blended family. For example, if you have disinherited a child or if you have step- or half-children, then leaving the estate up to the state means that you might not have your things divided as you like.
It is important for an adult child to discuss estate planning with their parents to 1) make sure the parents have a plan in place and 2) make sure everyone knows who will be in charge of distributing the will (i.e., the designator), who will receive assets and your parents’ wishes. This involves any special needs planning or long-term care, life insurance, social security, and managing inheritance tax as well.
Approaching the Topic of Estate Planning With Your Parents
You want to be careful how you the topic of estate planning with your elderly parents and reassert the importance of will planning in general regardless of age, illness, or any other family problems.
How Do You Talk to Your Parents About Their Will?
Talking to your parents about their will or trust won’t be black and white. You need to respect that your parents may be anxious about the matter. They may not be sure how to divide their assets or may not know where they can turn to create a will or trust.
Your role as a child is to support your parents in any way you can. If they are unsure about estate planning, explain that not having an estate plan means that the assets go into probate and the parents have no say or control over where the assets go. It can take a long time to probate a will in Texas.
If your parents understand this, then you can recommend an experienced estate planning lawyer like us at Thomas Walters to help them throughout the process. We plan estates for families in the Fort Worth, TX area, and also offer virtual estate planning in Texas.
Estate planning should not be done alone and you can help them set up virtual meetings with a friendly and knowledgeable estate planning team.
What are the Five Most Important Estate Planning Documents?
It’s so important to talk with an estate planning attorney who knows Texas law because there are essential documents needed for this process and, without them, estate planning can be difficult after death.
The five most important estate planning documents include:
Last Will and Testament: This is the legal foundation for a successful estate plan. It lays out:
- Who will serve as the executor or personal representative (or the person to settle your affairs after death) of your estate
- The power the executor or personal representative has over the estate
- Who your beneficiaries are and what they will inherit
- Who will be the guardian of children if you have minors
- What your estate consists of, including real estate, real property, and any trusts
- Determinants of wealth management or asset protection, including the contact information for your financial advisor
Most people know it is a risk to die without having a will, but not everyone considers these important planning tools that are also indispensable.
Living Trust: There are many different types of trusts. Also known as a revocable living trust, the living trust is an essential estate planning document and legal document created during your lifetime. It facilitates the transfer of assets into a trust for your beneficiaries.
A living trust allows your assets to be moved to the trust while you are alive and you still retain control over them. This document avoids the need to go through probate court proceedings. You can see this post to better understand the difference between a revocable vs irrevocable trust.
Durable Power of Attorney (POA): This legal document gives someone else, called your agent, the power to act on your behalf, usually related to financial decisions. Usually, the other person is a spouse, but a POA can dictate who that person is and when they will be active. This is especially important if you experience a sudden mental decline. See this post for more info on how to get a power of attorney in Texas.
Healthcare Power of Attorney (POA): Whereas the Durable POA is focused on financial matters, this legal document is specifically related to medical decisions. This is a good document to have if you want to trust certain people in your family with different responsibilities as healthcare matters can be stressful and difficult to do.
Living Will: Also known as an advanced healthcare directive, a living will is a legal document providing instructions for end-of-life care. This is different from the last will and testament; a living will spells out how life-sustaining medical treatment decisions should be made if you’re incapacitated and can’t communicate them yourself.
How Do I Talk To My Mom or Dad About Their Will?
Talking to an aging parent about wills, estate planning, and potential death or old age can be difficult; it may be even harder to approach the subject with your father.
Here’s a guide on how to start this conversation:
- Start slowly: Ease into this conversation. You can start with an anecdote, like “I was talking to my lawyer about power of attorney, is this something you’ve thought about?”
- Know what questions to ask: Have a list of questions prepared in case you need to refer to them. You might know what your parents need; for example, a power of attorney could lead to talking about dividing up the assets and planning for retirement.
- Don’t wait until there’s a crisis: Major life crises are exactly when you need estate planning to be in place. So try to do it before a major issue comes up.
- Be a good listener: Your parents might have a lot of emotions about this topic, so be prepared to be quiet and listen to their needs. Address their emotions and anxieties appropriately.
- It doesn’t have to be a “talk”: Maybe your parents will feel better writing down their needs.
- Find out where everything is: Within this conversation, you want to know where their will is in the event of a sudden incident.
- Don’t just spring a heavy conversation on them: Sometimes you need to keep it light (and this is one of those times). Try having the conversation in short spurts over time, that way it doesn’t seem so serious. Or, maybe you set up a date at a restaurant and you try and talk to them care about the subject.
Supporting Your Parents During Estate Planning
Estate planning is difficult but important. When talking to your loved ones, remind them of the important events with estate planning. Remember to always get an estate planning lawyer. You will need one to approve the final documents, and having a lawyer from the start will help guide the conversation.