Without an estate plan, the settlement of your parents’ estate could be accompanied by unnecessary taxes and expenses, delays in asset distribution, and offended family members. For example, if your parents hold an asset in joint tenancy with one of their children, the distribution of assets becomes distorted, insulting those children who received less from the estate.
Be sure to talk about the future with your parents, specifically their estate matters, finances, and memorial wishes. As this is one of the most important conversations you will have with them, we have compiled a list of some key topics to help you ensure your parents have their estate plan in proper order.
- A Trust: Your parents may already have a Last Will and Testament written up (if not, they likely do not have other estate-planning documents); however, while a Last Will and Testament only goes into effect at death, a trust provides legal instruction both at death AND during incapacity. Additionally, trusts avoid the costs and publicity of probate court. Therefore, trusts are usually the more appropriate estate-planning option. Regardless of whether your parents have Last Wills and Testaments or trust(s), stress that you do not need to read the terms of either agreement, but that you should know where the original documents are located and who the Executor/Trustee will be.
- Advanced Directives: Ensure your parents have established Living Wills and Powers of Attorney, which name persons to act on behalf of your parents should they be unable to do so. Also discuss their respective end-of-life decisions, such as life support, and how they would like their financial and medical affairs handled should they become incapacitated.
- Financial & Investment Accounts: Compile a list of your parents’ brokerage, bank, and mutual fund accounts and account numbers. This information will be vital in the management of financial affairs during incapacity or at death.
- Insurance Policies: Determine what insurance policies your parents have and where each policy is located, in the event of either or both of their incapacity. Some important policies to remember are health insurance (private or Medicare), life insurance, homeowner’s insurance, auto insurance, disability insurance, and long-term care policies.
- A Team Effort: Finally, compile a list of the names and contact information of all professionals that your parents employ (whether legal, financial, or medical) should decisions need to be made on behalf of your parents.
While the thought of speaking with your parents about their finances and estate plan may make you uncomfortable, remember that this conversation is key to helping your parents live out their golden years free of financial worries and with the knowledge that their wishes will be carried out during their incapacity or after their death.
If you find that your parents do not have a proper estate plan or if, after your discussion, your parents would like to implement a trust into their estate plan, be sure to have your parents attend one of our firm’s free estate-planning seminars, the first step to setting up their estate plan with us. They may reserve their seats at the seminar by calling (239) 225-7987.
It’s also never too early to set up YOUR estate plan. Read through our estate-planning page for information on how young families can start working on their estate plans and to learn more about our college kits, which provide your college student with all the legal healthcare directives they need! To start working on your estate plan with us, please reserve a seat at one of our seminars by calling (239) 225-7987. You could even attend with your parents! We look forward to becoming your (and their) Lawyer for Life!
Fort Myers (Main Office):
12751 New Brittany Blvd.
Fort Myers, FL 33907
F: (239) 221-0279
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New York Office:
Suite 240, One Suffolk Square
1601 Veterans Memorial Hwy
Islandia, NY 11749
F: (239) 221-0279
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