While estate planning should be a consideration for everyone regardless of age, health or wealth, many people simply choose to ignore it until the last minute. Unfortunately, not taking the time to properly develop a comprehensive estate plan can lead to family disputes and a sense of frustration and panic for surviving loved ones.
Often, the responsibility falls to the children of elderly parents to encourage them to draft a will, trust and other estate planning documents. But can this conversation be started in a sensitive manner?
In general, the common advice is to start the conversation by finding out what, if any, estate planning has already been completed. They might have written an online will or prepared an official-sounding document stating their end-of-life wishes. It is wise to collect these disparate documents and have them all form the basis of a complete, comprehensive estate plan.
Once you have clarified what was completed, you can introduce them to a checklist of the types of documents that might still be needed. An estate plan generally consists of several separate documents, including:
- Wills and trusts
- Financial power of attorney
- Healthcare power of attorney
- Do not resuscitate orders
- Guardianship designations
It is also wise to have a firm grasp on where these documents are located if they are stored apart. Ultimately, it’s fine if your parents have their will in a fireproof box at home and the powers of attorney in their safety deposit box at the bank – but you need to know where the documents are stored.
You should also clarify your parents’ end of life decisions and put them in writing to avoid future disputes. Do your parents want cremation or burial? Do your parents want a large funeral or small gathering? These might seem like easy answers, but it is not uncommon for children to be shocked by the response.
Developing a comprehensive estate plan is a challenging topic of conversation, but a necessary one. Do not hesitate to contact a skilled legal professional for help and guidance.