Unless you’ve been the one to clean up after an inheritance disaster, it’s hard to comprehend how important estate planning is. Once you’ve been through the wringer, you don’t want to do it again.
There are families who understand the importance of estate planning. There are even some who use it as a tool to facilitate discussions with their adult children about what they would want to happen if they were to become incapacitated and get their children on the same page about family values and legacies.
However, as reported in The Napa Valley Register’s “Estate planning for your parents,” not all parents are open to this. Some are insecure about their lack of knowledge, and there can be fear of the cost or undue influence. In some instances, parents just don’t want to come to terms with their mortality. Whatever it is, if a parent delays or doesn’t make an estate plan, the children will potentially have stress and conflict—and have to clean up the mess.
Probate is a tiresome, slow moving and bureaucratic headache. There are delays and hard feelings. Probate can also wind up with the wrong people inheriting wealth and family treasures. If you’re not certain if your parents have a proper estate plan designed by a knowledgeable attorney, there are several ways to approach this before a crisis.
The easiest way to see if your parents have a solid estate plan is to ask, “Hey Mom, do you and Dad have a will and a trust?” In addition, see if they have disability planning and other medical documents in place.
If a subtler approach is required, you can try asking for advice from your parents. Tell them you’re trying to get your personal affairs in order and need their help. You can ask them what estate planning they’ve done and what attorney they used. This may get them to open up about their situation, in order to help you with yours. Another way to ease into this conversation is with an anecdote. You may know a person who had an easier time with proper planning, or maybe you know someone whose life was troubled by avoiding it.
If your parents simply don’t want to talk about this type of planning, you may seek the help of another sibling. They may respond better to your brother or sister. You can also ask a relative or a trusted friend to broach the subject. This may sound a little extreme, but there is another option to consider. If your parents are worried about their finances, you can offer to pay for an estate plan to be created. You may end up spending more after they pass, if there’s no estate plan in place. The amount of time, money and stress you avoid, makes this well worth it. Think of it as an investment in your emotional well-being.
Reference: Napa Valley Register (March 26, 2017) “Estate planning for your parents”