Estate planning is often neglected when caring for aging parents. Many families view speaking about estate planning as morbid or private, and older parents may try to avoid the conversation when it’s casually brought up. Everyone dies eventually and should execute proper documents to ensure their wishes are honored regarding the transition of their estate. While the topic of death may be emotional, it needs to happen, especially for those who are caring for their aging parents.
We wrote this guide for caregivers of aging parents to help answer your questions and provide an understanding of the estate planning process.
Why Estate Planning is Important for Aging Parents
Everyone needs estate planning, especially aging parents. Estate planning encompasses a wide variety of tasks, such as distributing a person’s assets when they die and executing legal documents that allow others to assist should the individual become incapacitated. Estate planning involves deciding who will receive your property and in what amounts and decisions related to your end-of-life and medical care decisions. It also takes into consideration the type of care your parents prefer in the event of incapacity.
Many people also use estate planning to protect their aging parents’ finances. Estate planning can help reduce tax exposure, prevent the loss of assets should they require long-term care, and protect hard-earned assets from creditors by establishing a trust. When done correctly, estate planning can offer peace of mind and lessen the financial burden after parents’ passing.
How to Breach the Topic of Estate Planning with Aging Parents
Discussing estate planning with aging parents may cause stress or even discomfort. Many older parents like to keep their finances and plans secret, especially regarding the division of assets. While it’s understandable that this may be a sensitive topic, it must be discussed to prevent issues in the future. Here are a few helpful strategies to open dialogue and make the conversation more productive:
Select a Good Time: This discussion requires privacy and plenty of time. You will want to get through the bulk of the conversation without distractions. Starting and stopping an estate planning discussion may make it more challenging to bring up in the future. It’s also advisable to open the conversation when everyone is calm and not emotionally charged.
Listen to Their Concerns: The last thing you want to do is talk over them. Instead, you want this to be a two-way conversation to uncover needs and discuss solutions. Pay attention to your parents’ answers and take note of any concerns they may have regarding the process. This may be the first time they’ve considered estate planning.
Ask Questions: Open-ended questions are best suited for estate planning, especially with aging parents. Don’t jump into the specifics right away. Instead, give your parents time to think about what you are saying. A good question is, “What do you want to happen with your property when you pass?” This allows them to consider their options and think about their wishes.
Highlight Benefits: There are many benefits to estate planning that your aging parents may need to be made aware of, such as guaranteeing their wishes are honored, lowering the risk of family disputes, and protecting their property.
Legal Documents That Should Be Discussed:
Numerous documents can be used in an estate plan for aging parents. Here are a few of the more common documents:
Wills: Everyone has likely heard of a will. This document allows you to state your wishes regarding the executor of your estate, the distribution of your property, and other important factors.
Power of Attorney: You can designate authority to another person to handle financial, healthcare, and legal issues if a parent becomes incapacitated with a power of attorney (POA).
Trusts: This legal agreement permits assets to be held for the benefit of an individual. Trusts are revocable or irrevocable, and you should speak with an experienced estate planning attorney before choosing between the two types.
Advanced Healthcare Directive: Aging parents can designate their medical care wishes if they are incapacitated or unable to make decisions independently. This document can be referenced and provides proof of their decisions.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach that can be applied to estate planning. Everyone’s situation is different, and you should contact an attorney with any questions.
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