If you’re a member of the often-underappreciated “sandwich generation”, you’re taking responsibility for the care of your parents and your children simultaneously. And part of this responsibility includes asking your parents about their estate plan. They will control the final details of their plan, of course, but it’s essential that they have one, and you can help them take steps to make this happen.
This can be an uncomfortable conversation, for sure. But you’ll need to bring up the subject in order to make sure your parents can live out their golden years free of financial worries, and a strong estate plan can help you ensure that their wishes are carried out after they pass away.
Estate Planning for Your Parents
The earlier you address important aspects of estate planning, including memorial wishes, the better. Here are a some of the topics you’ll want to review during your discussion.
- A group effort: Your parents may already be working with a team of financial or legal professionals, and if so, you’ll want contact information for all of these people. You should also be able to easily get in touch with your parent’s doctors and you should fully understand who else may be involved in their end-of-life decisions.
- Wills and trusts: If your parents have yet to create a will, they probably don’t have many other estate planning documents either. If they do have wills, find out how long ago they were drafted, where they are located, and who is named in them as executor. At this stage in life, a trust may also be appropriate, and you’ll need to determine which document better suits your parent’s wishes.
- Advanced directives: Living wills and power of attorney documents can help you – or someone else—make decisions on your parents’ behalf when they can no longer make their own. End-of-life decisions and life support directives should also be included in these documents, as should instructions on the handling of their medical and financial affairs if they become incapacitated.
- Insurance policies: Learn all you can about your parents’ insurance policies, including health insurance (private or Medicare), life insurance, homeowners, auto insurance, disability insurance, and long-term care policies.
- Investment accounts: Ask your parents to create a list of their brokerage, bank, and mutual fund accounts including the account numbers. This will make it easier for you to step in and assist if they pass away or need help due to incapacity.
Estate Planning is Important
Without a clear estate plan, your parents can unintentionally leave behind chaos, expenses, hassle, hurt feelings, or delays in distribution of assets after their deaths. Joint tenancy is no substitute for an estate plan, and when joint tenancy is used instead of an estate planning tool like a trust, adult children left behind may be dismayed or offended by an unplanned or unequal distribution of the parents’ assets.
Don’t let anxiety or discomfort allow you to put off this important estate planning conversation. Contact our team of estate planning attorneys and we can give you and your parents advice and help all of you understand your options.