Estate planning is a difficult, emotional topic, but it’s essential for every family to have these conversations. Unless you’re certain that your parents have an up-to-date will and a plan for what should happen in the event of their passing, you shouldn’t assume everything will be taken care of. Questions? Contacting a Florida estate planning attorney is a great place to start.
According to a 2017 survey, less than half of Americans have a will. If your mother or father dies intestate – meaning without a will – such a situation could lead to added emotional strain and stress. Moreover, there can be serious financial implications for all of their children and/or other family members.
The following seven tips from a Florida estate planning attorney can help you discuss the hard topics thoroughly and respectfully, so you and your loved ones can prepare you for the road ahead.
Discussing estate planning and all it entails is not something that should happen without any planning. Make a list of topics and questions, then let your parents know what you want to discuss.
If possible, set a time and date and choose a private venue to maximize comfort. Be aware that you may need to have a few conversations, as there could be too much to cover in one sitting. Remember to use language that’s respectful and supportive, and to take a breather if emotions run high, or the stress becomes overwhelming.
There are several key people you may need to contact for estate planning purposes. Ask your parents for the names and contact details of their:
- Financial planner and/or accountant
- Insurance brokers
- Closest friends
Determine whether there is an existing will in place, and whether the document is up to date. If a will was created more than five years ago, check to see if they’d consider reviewing it to ensure it’s a true reflection of their wishes. Establish where they keep the document and confirm who they’ve appointed as the executor. The same goes for any trust that may have been created.
Find out whether your parents have appointed someone to manage their financials, and their other affairs if they become incapacitated. If they haven’t given someone power of attorney, suggest that they consider doing so.
Even though the subject may be uncomfortable to talk about, you should discuss your parents’ end-of-life wishes with them. Their estate plan will be incomplete without these directives, so it’s important to include them. The form that those directives take depend on the state in which you live, and they may include:
- The appointment of a health care proxy who can make medical decisions for your parents if they become incapable of making those decisions themselves. You can obtain the relevant forms from an elder law attorney, or from a hospital or nursing home.
- A medical or advance directive that explains what sort of care they would like, and whether life support should be used to keep them alive or not. These directives can be included in the document that appoints the health care proxy. The directive must refer to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) when naming the proxy.
- A living will contains instructions regarding the withdrawal or termination of life support under specific conditions, such as your parents becoming terminally ill, becoming comatose, or entering a vegetative state.
Talk about the type of insurance policies in place. That includes:
- Health insurance – Medicare or private
- Life insurance
- Home insurance
- Long-term care insurance
- Disability insurance
In some cases, there may be seniors funeral insurance or other policies intended to cover funeral or burial payments. You’ll need to know about these too, and have all their details.
If you haven’t already done so, take note of the names and contact details of the insurance brokers. Check where the policy documents are kept, and if possible, make certified copies of them. If you have any questions about this, contact a Florida estate planning attorney to get advice from an expert.
In addition to subjects such as power of attorney and insurance, there are several other practicalities you should include in your conversations.
- Make a list of their accounts – financial accounts such as bank and mutual fund, credit accounts, and store accounts.
- Check if they are registered organ donors or whether they would consider donating their organs.
- Talk about the memorial service they want, and whether they want to be buried, cremated, or a different option.
Estate planning conversations are tough no matter how you tackle them. Try your best to be patient with your parents and transparent with other family members about what you’re doing. If you have siblings, invite them to be part of the conversation.
Accept that these talks can take time, and avoid placing pressure on those involved to get it all done in a few hours. The smaller details are critical and should not be rushed. Lastly, always consult an attorney if you’re unsure about the legal aspects or implications of any of the points mentioned above.
If you need more information and want to discuss these difficult topics with a Florida estate planning attorney, contact The Wheeler Firm, or give us a call at (850) 613-6923 to schedule a consultation.