Having the Uncomfortable Talk…With your Parents
Not unlike the talk that most of us dread, but realize we must have with our pre-teens about the “birds and the bees,” working up the nerve to ask your parents about whether they have a Will and other estate planning documents in place can be debilitating for many of us. The most anxiety seems to stem from the general idea that children (adult or not) should not ask parents about their finances and certainly should not ask them about whether they have made plans for their death. There is a lingering feeling that if you ask these questions your parents will automatically assume you are already making a plan to collect your inheritance. The reality is, if children are left in the dark until a parent passes, more than likely they have missed out on acquiring some valuable information that could save everyone time, money, anxiety and a more complicated probate process down the road.
So, how should you, as the child, take this subject up with your parents? There is no reason that you have to get into the details regarding the value of your parents’ estate if the topic of money is not one that your family is comfortable discussing. However, one downside to leaving values off the table is potentially a missed opportunity for meaningful legacy and tax planning that stretches between the generations. At a minimum, you should know whether your parents have a Will, where the original Will is located and who is named Executor in the Will. It may be even more important to know if your parents have Durable Powers of Attorney, Medical Powers of Attorney and Living Wills. These documents are key for all of us, but if your parents are upwards in age, and particularly if there are any signs of dementia or looming incapacity, it is critical that they have these documents (and that the documents are drafted to meet the intended needs) so that the appointed Agent may act on their behalf when they no longer are able to do so. Don’t make the assumption that your parents have the right estate planning documents simply because they are the parents, or are professionals, or just seem really organized. In fact, according to recent studies, over 55% of Americans do not have a Will or any type of estate planning document. So, take a deep breath and go have the talk!