Talking to your parents about their estate plan can be stressful at the best of times. We can’t assume how your parents react to heavy or important conversations like these, but we do know from experience that they can often be tense and overwhelming.
By preparing in advance, you can ensure that the conversation doesn’t get lost in confusion or misunderstandings.
Our Florida estate planning lawyers advise all our clients to make a list of the key estate planning topics they need to resolve with their parents. Go through this list in advance, educating yourself as best possible.
1. When Is The Right Time to Talk To Your Parents About Estate Planning?
Deciding when to talk about estate planning with your parents is also critical. Time is of the essence so you usually can’t afford to delay this any longer. There is no better time than now – especially for parents of a certain age.
However, there is of course always a time and place to bring it up. If your parents are particularly stressed that day or only have a quick five minutes, then it’s probably worth delaying your discussion.
The best time is during a get-together when everyone involved has some time to truly think about it. But it’s important to remember that you might need to hold these talks over several meetings. Your parents might not want to go through everything in one sitting. It’s a lot to take in, after all.
2. Learn What They’ve Done
During the conversation, you should be able to learn about your parent’s estate plan. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do a little bit of homework before. Consider if your parents have:
- Real estate
- Insurance plans
- Valuable or highly sentimental personal items
- Previous marriages
- Nursing home plans
- End-of-life or medical treatment preferences
If you know your parents have some of these assets or factors, then you can avoid accidentally missing them during your discussions.
3. Learn Why It Can Be Important to Update
It’s normal for some parents to respond, “Why now?” or “I’ve already got a will”.
But when did they last update it?
The most important thing to consider when talking about updates to your parent’s estate plan is changes in the family. Have there been:
- New marriages
- New grandchildren
- New assets or real estate acquired
- New pets
- New insurance plans
- Deaths in the family
This is critical as, for example, if a new grandchild is not added to a will then they could be left out of an inheritance entirely.
4. Identify Key People Who Can Help You
Talking to your parents about estate planning can be made much easier by liaising with the relevant people. When discussing it with your parents, you can ask them for the names and contact details of the following people to help overcome complications:
- Financial Planners or accountants
- Insurance brokers
- Closest friends
- Minister of religion
- Trustees or executors (if they’ve been previously arranged).
Involving siblings can also be wise. Doing things behind a family member’s back tends to end badly. You can let them know that you’re planning to talk to Mom or Dad about their estate planning and ask if they want to be involved.
In many families, the siblings are happy to let one sibling take the reins, but in others, they’ll want to keep a close eye on what’s happening.
5. What Areas of Estate Planning to Discuss With Your Parents?
Estate planning can be as narrow as only a will, or as wide as using trusts and thinking of asset protection. Depending on your family’s wealth and circumstances, the need to discuss these areas will vary. If your parents do have a complicated estate then it’s best to contact an estate planning attorney to see what’s optimal for them.
However, the key areas to cover when talking to your parents about estate planning are:
Last Will and Testament
A will is a legally binding document that can record your parent’s wishes and instructions for asset and personal item distribution, and funeral preferences.
Creating a Will
If your parents don’t have one, then they should make one as soon as possible.
Passing away without a will means that their estate will be distributed via Florida’s intestate succession laws (which is never ideal, but especially if your parent has had children in previous marriages).
Updating a Will
If they already have a will, then it’s time to ask your parents when they last updated it.
Generally, it should be reviewed every five years to align it with new goals and intentions.
However, if there have been new births, marriages, deaths or asset acquisitions in the family then it’s time to update it too.
Medicaid planning should be considered if your parent is concerned about their long-term health, or what will happen to them if they need elder care.
Contrary to popular belief, you can plan for it even if you earn a good income or have some assets.
This is done with the help of a Florida Medicaid planning lawyer.
Put simply, you can create a specific type of trust to collect income that exceeds Medicaid income limits, which is then used to pay for future Medicaid care and allow the individual to become eligible for Medicaid coverage.
Trusts are an advanced estate planning option that are overlooked by most people as they associate it with the super-rich only. But in reality, trusts are accessible to all and can be very useful.
Trusts are entities that take ownership of assets for the benefit of the designated beneficiaries.
There are many types of trusts with different uses, but the primary idea is to protect assets from creditors or to allow greater control over post-death distribution and management.
For example, if you want to leave teenage children your wealth then doing so in a will might not be ideal; because the child would get everything that you leave them all at once.
But with a trust, you can add terms, conditions or milestones that must first be met before your child gets access to the wealth. So you could say, “My son David can receive $20,000 upon his college graduation” or “My daughter Sarah should receive $50,000 upon the birth of her first child”.
The trust is also managed by a ‘Trustee’, so they can manage or sell assets in the best interests of the beneficiaries.
End of Life Wishes
End-of-life wishes cover topics such as burials and funerals, and life support and treatment preferences. Burials and funerals can be covered in the will.
However, for life support and treatment preferences, they should be covered in advance medical directives.
It may be wise to appoint a ‘Health Care Proxy‘ (also known as a ‘durable power of attorney for health care). This document appoints an individual to make decisions for which your parent is no longer able to make themselves. These decisions can be directed via your parent’s advance directive instructions.
Estate Planning Roles
There are various estate planning roles for your parents to appoint.
An executor is a person appointed to administer the estate after your parent’s death. They will be responsible for notifying the local probate court and distributing assets.
An executor should be someone who is trusted, level-headed and well-respected in the family. It should be agreed upon in advance, ideally with a backup.
A trustee is a person responsible for managing a trust in the best interests of a beneficiary. This will be covered when creating a trust.
A power of attorney is a person appointed to make financial and legal decisions or act on your parent’s behalf if they’re unable to do some themselves (due to incapacitation or being out of state). This person should be financially and legally competent and highly trusted.
We also advise you to talk about your parent’s insurance policies, which may include:
- Disability insurance
- Long-term care insurance
- Home Insurance
- Life insurance
- Health insurance
You should make certified copies of important insurance documents.
If your parents have a pet(s) then they’ll need to consider what would happen to it if they pass away before the pet does.
This can be as easy as writing in the will that the pet be left with a pre-agreed caretaker. But for a legally binding and secure arrangement, consider a pet trust.
Contact an Estate Planning Attorney Today in Pinellas County and Hillsborough County
If your parents need assistance with creating an estate plan, trust or drafting their documents, our Florida estate planning lawyers can help.
We welcome you to contact our Florida estate planning attorneys today for a free consultation if you have any questions or wish to get started.
Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, P.A. is U.S. News and World Reports Tier 1 law firm in Florida, specializing in Estate Planning & Probate since 1958. With award-winning experienced estate planning attorneys, they can help you create a water-tight estate plan that protects your rights and wishes.