Although it can be an uncomfortable experience, there comes a time when every child has to discuss estate planning matters with their aging parents.
It can be a tough conversation to have, especially if your parents (or you) are avoiding the subject, but there are ways to address their needs for their elder years and end-of-life wishes successfully with a little tact and preparation.
Here's an overview of the most important factors you'll want to cover with your parents sooner rather than later.
Health and Medical
With age, comes increased medical needs and concerns. Take the time to review your parent’s current medical coverage and conditions to make sure they are able to receive the care they need.
· Review their healthcare insurance coverage
· Assess if long-term care insurance is a good option for them
· Address any limitations or future limitations that need to be planned for logistically and financially
· Make sure they have (and you understand) their healthcare proxy
· Identify who has durable power of attorney to express their wishes and make healthcare decisions if they are unable to speak for themselves
Financial and Legal
It's best to address financial and legal matters before your parents face a difficult circumstance, like the loss of a spouse, cognitive difficulties, or other healthcare concerns that could make it more challenging for your parents to share important estate planning information with you and their long-term care wishes.
Regarding financial concerns, be sure to ask and find out:
· Do they have enough savings for unexpected expenses?
· Retirement income to live off of?
· Other assets that they eventually plan to sell or transfer?
· Charitable giving plans?
You'll want your parents to feel in control of their money and privacy as much as possible, so don’t approach the conversation like an interrogation. Instead, simply make yourself available to them to help them manage their affairs.
And aside from knowing if they are adequately covered financially, there is certain information you will need in order to best help them with any of their financial and legal affairs, especially if the parent who usually handles these matters is no longer able to:
· Name and contact information of their financial advisor or CPA
· List of all their financial accounts/holdings, who to contact regarding these accounts, and who has access to them besides them
· Name and contact information of their attorney
· Location and information on all the insurances they carry (health, long-term care, etc.)
· Access to their living will and/or last will and testament
· Access and information for their power of attorney (if it’s not you) over their financial accounts should one or both of them become deceased or disabled
· Access to their healthcare proxy
· Access to tax returns
More than anything, it will be invaluable to you to know what their wishes are from them directly rather than trying to figure it out after they are no longer around or able to communicate with you directly.
Many estate planning attorneys also offer to video tape their clients communicating the wishes they decided upon in their will so that there is no misunderstanding by their beneficiaries of what they wanted after they are gone.
In addition to legal and financial matters, you'll need to talk to your parents about some practical concerns as well.
For example, if you don't live in their proximity, who will be their support system when they require it? Is there a third party who can intervene in times of difficulty? Do they have trusted friends who could fulfill this role if necessary? If the answer is no, it’ll be important for you to work with your parents to make decisions regarding their care when they need it eventually.
Perhaps at a certain point, your parents will come to live with or near you or another sibling, or you can arrange for in-home professional assistance or an assisted living community. Either way, this shouldn’t be decided for your parents; you should discuss all their options and learn what they and you are ultimately most comfortable with.
At the end of the day, this isn’t a conversation about how old your parents are and how needy they will become. This is a conversation that gives them a voice to share exactly what they want with someone they love and trust more than anyone in this world. Parents spend a lifetime taking care of you and being self-sufficient. Reassure them that they aren’t a burden, and that you just want to help make sure that you do your best to help them maintain their independence as long as possible.
Knowing what your parents want, properly and legally documenting their wishes, and preparing for the unknown (but inevitable) can provide a tremendous amount of comfort and peace later for both you and your parents.
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