We’re used to parents talking about significant issues with children, but what about vice versa? Adults may have one of these talks with their parents, including discussing their parents’ estate and advance care planning. While the idea of the conversation may be uncomfortable for both the parents and children, there should be a feeling of peace afterward for both parties.
Below are concepts and tips to keep in mind if you are considering speaking about estate and advance care planning with your parents.
Talk About Why This Topic is Important
Some parents may feel they do not have to share their wishes with anyone. While this is true to an extent, it’s still important to have this conversation ahead of time, especially if you are a benefactor as the child.
It is essential to explain that you want to ensure their wishes are respected and their assets are protected. Because we never truly know when someone will pass, it’s best to start talking about your parents’ wishes sooner rather than later.
Talk About Their Wishes
Find out your parent's wishes regarding their medical care and end-of-life decisions. It's also important to know who they want to make these decisions if they can not. This could be outlined through a power of attorney and other estate planning documents.
Having at least one power of attorney designated is critical for someone to legally make decisions on someone's behalf when they can not do so themselves. A power of attorney can make financial, healthcare, or other types of decisions according to the “power” they are given.
A power of attorney can be in effect temporarily or permanently. Temporary power of attorney is only in effect for a specific period while a durable power of attorney remains in effect indefinitely until changes are made otherwise.
Help Them Understand Their Options
There are a variety of estate planning and advance care planning documents available. Help your parents understand what each one does and why they might need it.
Two of the most common estate planning documents are wills and trusts. They are similar, but there are also key differences and how they impact beneficiaries.
A will is a legal document that outlines how a person's assets will be distributed after death. If someone does not have a will, the state will determine how assets are distributed which may not align with someone’s wishes.
A trust is a legal arrangement in which one person (the trustee) holds and manages property for another person (the beneficiary). Trusts can be revocable or irrevocable. Revocable trusts can be altered frequently or not at all, while an irrevocable trust cannot be changed once it's been created.
When assets are put in a trust, the beneficiaries do not necessarily need to be notified ahead of time and any heirs who believe they should have been designated as a beneficiary will not have any say-so otherwise. With a will, however, that is different. In a will, if someone is named the beneficiary of an asset but if someone else believes they are the rightful heir of that asset, then the “rightful heir” can contest the will through probate.
Probate is when someone's assets are distributed after their passing. If someone has a will, their assets will likely need to go through probate. On the other hand, having assets listed in a trust can avoid the probate process.
Learn more about the differences between a will, a trust, and how to avoid probate here.
Keep the Conversation Going
Estate planning and advance care planning can be complex topics. Check-in with your parents periodically to ensure they understand their options and are comfortable with their decisions.
Talking with parents about a future without them in it can be difficult but is essential to do. If you want more guidance on how to talk about this subject with your parents, or are ready to start an estate plan of your own, contact the estate planning team at Jerimy Kirschner & Associates, PLLC. We are dedicated to helping you and your loved ones feel comfortable about the estate planning process and keeping assets protected.
Reach out to our Bellevue attorneys online or by phone to set up a free consultation. (206) 203-8802