Having elderly parents often means you take on certain responsibilities. You help them program phone numbers into their smartphones and navigate through 200 cable television channels. However, sometimes you have more difficult tasks, such as talking to them about estate planning.
You probably do not want to think about your death, let alone that of your parents. However, the fact is that they will not always be here, and they should tell you now about their end-of-life wishes. If your parents have not created an estate plan, it may be time for an important discussion.
Explain to your parents why you want them to think about their estate plan. They may presume you are merely curious about your inheritance. However, the primary reason for estate planning is so that they can make their wishes known. If they talk about their plans now, they can ask questions about who wants what, eliminating the need for guesswork. Your parents may also want to explain their thinking. Knowing the thought process behind the decisions often helps siblings view the asset division as fair. Communicating now can save heartache and arguments later.
Your parents may have a hard time understanding the various documents involved in estate planning. Everyone seems to know about wills, but trusts, health care directives and business succession can be confusing. Each situation is different, so you may not fully understand what your parents need. Put them in touch with professionals. Once they have made the proper arrangements, ask where they keep their important documents. That way, when it is time for you to step in, you have the information you need.
Estate plans are not commandments etched in stone, written once and forgotten. The documents are changeable, and your parents should review them regularly. Big life events, such as weddings and births, may trigger new provisions. It may be wise to review estate plans every five years, as the value of various assets can change significantly over time.