Of all the awkward conversations to have with your parents, discussing their death might top them all. However, talking about estate planning with parents and retirees is important and necessary. In this blog, we discuss the importance of an estate plan and share tips on having this important conversation with your mom and dad.
Why Estate Planning Matters
Estate planning isn’t just for wealthy people. It’s for anyone who wants control over where their property goes after death. An estate plan is also necessary for those who want to provide for their family and leave a lasting legacy. Let’s take a look at why estate planning is important.
Estate Planning Is the Way to Communicate Wishes and Intentions
With an estate plan, your parents memorialize impactful decisions—such as who gets the house, who administers the estate, and who takes care of them when they no longer can. Of course, finances are a large part of the estate planning conversation, but it goes deeper than that. This is when families come together and discuss what the next phase of life for mom and dad may look like. It’s a time for your parents to be intentional about their decisions and set expectations for everyone involved.
Plan for the Unexpected
Estate planning involves more than planning for death. A comprehensive estate plan will include documents that come into play if your parents become incapacitated. All it takes is a bad fall, a car accident, or a sudden illness for your mom and dad to lose the ability to function independently. Your parents can prepare for these scenarios by executing advanced directives, such as a durable power of attorney or healthcare proxy. With these documents, your parents can appoint a person to make medical and financial decisions for them if they lose the ability to do so.
Make the Probate Process Easier
Probate is the legal process of winding up a deceased person’s affairs and distributing their assets. Depending on the complexity of the estate, probate can be costly and time-consuming. With proper estate planning, probate is avoidable, but the right documents must be in place.
Estate Planning Is Tax Planning
There are two things in life no one can avoid: death and taxes. When assets pass from your parents to you, there may be estate and inheritance tax implications. In New York, for example, estates valued at $6.11 million and over are subject to estate taxes that range from 3.06% to 16%. These taxes can be minimized with strategic estate and tax planning.
How to Talk to Your Parents About Estate Planning
Involve Your Siblings
Start by including siblings as part of the conversation. It’s a good idea to involve them because what happens with mom and dad affects everyone. Yes, it’s your parent’s money, property, and decisions, but it impacts the entire family. You also don’t want your siblings to think you’re improperly influencing your parents in any way. In fact, your sibling can argue that your parent’s will is invalid because you “unduly influenced” them. Getting into estate litigation is an expensive way to fight it out with your brother or sister.
Having your siblings present at the estate planning conversation also prevents them from bringing up the argument of what your parents “would have wanted.” It can save your relationship with your siblings for everyone to hear mom and dad’s wishes directly from them.
Choose an Appropriate Time and Place
Estate planning shouldn’t be put off. However, it can do more harm than good to force the conversation at an inopportune time. Just because the whole family is together for a holiday doesn’t make it an appropriate time or setting to discuss estate plans.
Openly Talk About Their Plans and Goals
Discussing life after your parent’s death is challenging. It evokes emotions and can bring up things from the past. This is the time to be honest and open with everyone, yet respectful of your parent’s wishes. Knowing and understanding their goals will eliminate any surprises down the road and help you plan your own life.
What Topics Should You Discuss?
It’s helpful to go into the conversation organized and prepared. You want the discussion to be productive, so here are some topics you’ll want to cover with your parents.
Estate Planning Documents
Estate planning looks different for everyone. Some estate plans include more documents than others, but at a minimum, the following should be executed:
- Last Will and Testament;
- Durable Power of Attorney;
- Healthcare Proxy; and
- Living Will.
An experienced estate planning lawyer can help determine if other documents are necessary to achieve the desired goals.
Roles and Responsibilities
You need to know if your parents want to involve you in carrying out their estate plan. For example, they may appoint you as the executor of their estate or their healthcare agent to make medical decisions on their behalf.
Keep the Conversation Going
Estate plans aren’t something you create and then file away. Estate planning documents should be fluid and updated as life changes occur. People get married, divorced, have children, lose jobs, start businesses, etc. All of these events can impact the original estate plan and the roles of everyone involved. Be sure to revisit the estate planning conversation and make updates as life unfolds.
Contact the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C.
Whether you need someone to facilitate the conversation with your parents or are looking for someone to draft estate planning documents, we’re here to help. Principal attorney Andrew M. Lamkin is a seasoned Long Island estate planning lawyer with 15 years of legal experience. He practices in New York City, Nassau, and Suffolk Counties and provides personalized attention to his clients. All initial consultations are free. To discuss your estate planning needs, contact the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C., by calling our office or submitting an inquiry online.