Updated: Jul 19
Are you fully aware of the potential ramifications your parents' estate plan may have on your life? It's crucial to comprehend the intricacies and consequences that can arise from their planning decisions. Have you taken the time to speak with your parents to find out if they have a current and comprehensive estate plan? Regardless of their financial status (or your own), it is crucial to address this important matter, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. By asking these essential questions, you can better prepare for the potential responsibilities that may arise when your parents become incapacitated or pass away. This article aims to highlight the significance of understanding your parents' estate plan and provides guidance to ensure their needs are properly supported.
Best Case Scenario
In an ideal situation, your parents would have taken proactive steps to create and update their estate plan. They have not only shared the plan with you but have also provided an easily accessible inventory of their assets, detailing ownership, beneficiaries, and distribution preferences. Furthermore, their estate plan encompasses instructions for handling assets including personal recordings or written accounts that pass on their values, insights, and experiences. Lastly, it is advantageous if they have introduced you to the attorney who assisted them in setting up the plan, ensuring you have a trusted professional to turn to when the need arises.
Less than Ideal Case Scenario
In certain cases, you may discover gaps in your parents' estate plan. If they have not engaged in any planning at all, it is crucial to encourage them to prioritize this task and provide them with your support. (You can start by looking into their state’s intestacy plan for how assets are transferred when there’s no estate plan. If they don’t like their state’s plan, this conversation can help empower them to write a plan to change things. Alternatively, if they have an existing estate plan, it may have been neglected, lacking updates, an asset inventory, or provisions for intangible assets. Additionally, the use of outdated legal systems can pose future complications.
Worst Case Scenario
In unfortunate circumstances, it is not uncommon for parents to be influenced by individuals who exert undue control over their estate-planning decisions. These influences may lead them to include provisions in their plan that do not align with their true intentions or would not have been their preferred choices if they had been fully aware of their options. Consequently, it becomes crucial for you to ascertain who your parents have worked with to create their estate plan and understand the reasoning behind their decisions. If you lack this knowledge, it is imperative to gather the information now to ensure clarity and prevent potential complications.
In order to fully understand your parents' estate plan and its implications, it is essential to delve into their decision-making process. If you find yourself uninformed, now is the time to uncover the details surrounding their planning journey. By understanding who guided them and the reasons behind their choices, you can gain insight into the intended outcomes and potential areas of concern. At the very least, for your own peace of mind to understand how they made their decisions.
Developing a relationship with your parent's estate planning attorney is crucial, particularly during times of need. This legal advisor can be one of your most significant supporters, offering guidance and expertise when it matters most. It is advantageous to establish this relationship proactively, well in advance of any urgent situations, to avoid last-minute scrambling and ensure seamless assistance during crises.
If discussions with your parents regarding their estate plan are already underway but have not yet included you, it is appropriate to request a family meeting facilitated by their existing attorney. This meeting provides an opportunity for the attorney to walk you through your parents' planning choices, address any concerns, and clarify the potential impact on you in the event of their incapacity or death. By participating in these discussions, you can gain a comprehensive understanding of the plan and your role within it.
Initiating conversations about estate planning with your parents may seem daunting. If you require support or guidance during these discussions, reaching out for assistance can be tremendously helpful. Professionals in this field can offer valuable advice, strategies, and resources to facilitate open and constructive communication with your parents, ensuring their wishes are understood and their plan aligns with their intentions.
Inquiring about your parents' estate plan and ensuring it is up to date is a vital responsibility. Regardless of their financial situation, the COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized the need for preparedness. By understanding their estate plan, you can provide effective support and navigate their affairs smoothly when the time comes. Engage in open communication, seek professional advice, and ensure that your parents' estate plan aligns with their wishes and your ability to fulfill their needs. Proactively addressing this matter will bring peace of mind to both you and your parents, enabling you to navigate the future with confidence.
About the Author
Leslie has been practicing law since 2009 and is the host of the estate planning podcast 'Legacy Purse'. She has a long history of representing family members struggling to inherit property and/or wealth from deceased family members through the Probate Courts. Knowing how time-consuming and expensive the probate process is, Leslie takes great pride in helping her clients learn how to plan and protect their families during their lives so they can avoid the probate court process and save their loved ones that additional grief (and expense).