Estate planning can be a tough topic because feelings and money get tied up. Money in many instances can conjure feelings of control (or lack of it), dignity, shame, fear, or a lack of confidence. Many conversations go south quickly. For example: if an adult son asks his mother if she and his father have recently updated their wills, he might be met with a response such as, "Why? Are you hoping we’ll die soon, so you can use your inheritance to finally pay off that huge mortgage we warned you not to take?"
You can see how these kinds of conversations can go downhill pretty fast, which is why everyone should resist the urge to take the bait that’s thrown out. Typically, that’s not the way it’s intended to work.
Rather than jumping into such a discussion with both eyes closed, think about just one issue to start—such as the re-titling of a bank account or making a beneficiary designation. This may help you get into a broader discussion on family finances and estate planning.
Once you get going with a meaningful discussion, ask your parents what goals they’re trying to accomplish, like making sure that assets are passed to the next generation and beyond … or are there concerns about an heir blowing all the money that’s left to him/her? Are there charities to remember in the estate plan?
Talking over these concerns with a qualified estate attorney can help you create an estate plan that addresses all of your issues and concerns. Remember that you’ll want to review your estate plan every few years.
The basic documents to draft with an estate planning attorney are a will (naming a guardian if you have minor children), a letter of instruction, a power of attorney, a health care proxy, and possibly one or more trusts. You want to have these documents ready before anything happens that requires using them.
It’s tough to start a conversation about these issues, but it’s a lot tougher than facing them unprepared.
Reference: Chicago Tribune (October 20, 2016) “Have the estate planning talk”