Do your parents have an estate plan? Is it up to date? No matter the size of your parents' estate, these are questions that you ought to know the answers to. Though it may be difficult to think about, your parents will die one day and as their surviving child, you will be impacted by their estate plan (or lack thereof). When your parents become incapacitated or die, their affairs will become your responsibility, and by that time, it will be too late for them to clarify anything.
There's no better time than the present to get clear on your parents' plans and wishes.
The Best-Case Scenario
In a best-case scenario, your parents have an updated estate plan, and they've walked you through it. You have access to a current inventory of their assets and you know exactly whose name everything is in and who is to benefit from what. In the most ideal situations, you will have directions on how to handle their non-monetary assets. You may even take it a step further by having video, audio or written documentation of stories or other values and insights that can be passed down for generations to come. Even better, you're familiar with your parents' lawyer so you know exactly who to turn to when the time comes.
If the best-case scenario doesn't quite sound like your reality, don't worry. You simply have some gaps to fill and help is easily accessible. If your parents have absolutely no estate plan, start encouraging them to get it done. Support them through the process – start by showing them this article and explaining the importance of putting measures in place.
If your parents already have a completed plan, maybe it's been sitting on a shelf or in a drawer for years, not update. Maybe you don't have a current inventory of their assets and no way to capture and pass on their intangible assets. Even worse, their lawyer could have been using outdated systems that are no longer recognized, which can lead to trouble for you down the road.
If your parents are using an outdated estate plan, there's a possibility that it no longer aligns with their current assets or lifestyle. Worst of all, you may have no idea what your parents own or how to find their assets, and at their incapacity or death you'll be left with a mess, even though your parents had good intentions and thought their planning was handled.
The Worst-Case Scenario
In a worst-case scenario (which we see more frequently than we'd like), your parents may have worked with someone who exerted undue influence over their decisions. This person may have led them to write something into their plan that they either didn't really want to or wouldn't otherwise have chosen if they understood all of their options. This can lead to unpleasant surprises when the time comes to administer their estate.
It's very important to know who your parents have worked with to create their estate plan, and how and why they made the choices they did. If you aren't in the know, now is the time to find out.
If your parents have already been meeting with an attorney for their estate plan, why not ask to schedule a meeting with the attorney? This will help you to fully understand the ins and outs of the plan so you can be up to speed and empowered to act when the time comes. It's always a good idea to develop a relationship with their estate planning attorney now. This advisor can be one of the most important supporters of you and your parents during your time of need. It's a relationship you will want to establish before you need it, so you won't be scrambling during a time of crisis.
Here at North County Legal, we understand the importance of family and making sure that family members are in the know when it comes to these kinds of things. Schedule a free consultation with us if you're ready to figure out the next steps for yourself and your family.