Have your parents started their estate planning? Do you want them to begin but they have not yet? Are you looking for ways to encourage them to plan not just for the future but for right now, to ensure that if something happens to them you have the authority to help them out? A staggering number of Americans, less than half in fact, have completed their estate plan today. If your parents are in this category, it is no surprise that you want them to plan forward so they are protected against uncertainty.
What if, however, you are on the other side of this conversation, and your parents have created their estate plan? While there can be significant relief in the fact that now they are protected by having a decision maker in place during a time of crisis, you may be surprised to learn you were the person who was chosen to make decisions. We know you may have questions when you are named in your parents’ estate plan to know what your duties and responsibilities actually are as a part of this process. Let us share five key considerations with you right here.
1. What should you do in a crisis? Although it may seem like an unusual question, you need to talk about what your parents want you to do in a sudden crisis. A crisis could be anything from being in a coma due to a serious car accident to being stuck overseas due to a flight delay. What is your role? What are your parents expecting you to do? Having an advance plan in place is the best decision you can make when it comes to successfully navigating a crisis.
2. Are you in charge of their health care decision making? The estate plan of your parents most likely includes health care planning. If your parents named you as their second in command, then you need to know what they want for their health care. Start with the basics: What do they want for their general care? What is their goal for long-term care? What would they want if they were on life support? Although these can be tough questions to answer, you need to learn what they would want so you can act for them in health care situations. Also, do not forget to get, keep, and maintain a current list of their diagnoses, doctors, specialists, and medicines.
3. Will you be in charge of their finances? Your parents’ finances may not be something that you have ever discussed. If you have been named as the agent in a durable power of attorney or a trustee in their trust, now is the time to learn. Ask questions about where they invest, who they work with, and what type of management fees they pay. Do they have life insurance or other policies with beneficiaries that might pass outside the estate plan? Are those planning tools current? Start to discuss this with your parents as soon as possible so you know what to expect should you need to step in.
4. What legacy do they want to leave behind? A critical part of estate planning is not just protecting them but protecting what they want for their future, their family, and their legacy. What legacy do they wish to create? This may be a topic that you are very familiar with, but it may not be. Talk to your parents about their vision for a time they are no longer here so you are able to see it come to fruition.
5. Who is their attorney? All successful estate plans have an experienced estate planning attorney behind them. Start by asking questions such as: Who did your parents work with? What will be your relationship with them? Where do the original documents live? Can you meet the attorney in advance to make sure you understand your roles and responsibilities? Let your parents know that you are open to having this discussion with their attorney, if it is appropriate from your parents’ perspective, whenever possible.
Being named within your parents’ estate plan brings serious questions that you need answered. We understand these challenges and want to support both you and your parents to get the experienced legal guidance you need. We encourage you to contact our office to set a meeting to discuss what you and your parents need.
Our estate planning law firm takes a very different approach from what you might have come to expect. Our goal is to create lifelong relationships with each of our clients, to guide and manage your legacy for the rest of your life. Please contact our offices in Stuart and in Palm City to learn more.