During the holiday season, it may not seem ideal to be thinking about you and your loved ones aging or passing away. However, the holidays undeniably provide quality time to discuss important estate planning topics with family.
During this time of year, you may see family members that you do not regularly visit with. This provides a unique opportunity to at least begin simple discussions about the aging process and planning for future healthcare, assets, and finances. Below are some suggested topics to consider covering with your loved ones before the new year:
1. Assess your parents’ wellbeing. If you have a parent that lives alone, there may not be anyone regularly assessing their health and daily capabilities. In addition, this parent may be hesitant to bring concerns about their own daily difficulties to your attention. And if you are fortunate enough to have both parents living, it is important to realize that it may be difficult for one parent to notice any decline in the other parent’s health. This is because of the simple fact that your parents are together daily, and a health decline may occur gradually. In contrast, you, or another family member who does not interact with your parents regularly, may more objectively notice a decline in their mental capacity or self-care. During your next visit with your parents, take a walk around their entire house and make note of how they seem to be living. For example, are you able to determine whether they are they taking their medications? Are they keeping the house as clean as they once did? Does it appear that they are still regularly using their vehicles? Do you notice any dents or dings in their cars? And are those cars parked properly? A simple assessment like this may bring needed attention to changes in health and mental capacity and, in turn, any legal planning that may be necessary.
2. Discuss you parents’ estate planning, if any. If your parents have not yet done any estate planning, it is crucial to discuss with them the importance of getting a plan in place. If they already have an estate plan, when was the last time it was reviewed by an attorney? Laws change. Family dynamics change. Decisions change. People become unavailable. For example, 20 years ago when Mom and Dad selected Dad’s brother to be the executor or personal representative of the estate, they may not have yet had any adult children or children mature enough to take on that roll. The time to update such decisions and make the necessary changes is now. The last thing you want is to allow your parent’s estate to become wrapped up in probate court because their plans were either not made at all, or not updated as needed.
3. Assist your parents with taking inventory of their assets. Have a discussion with your parents about what they have. Where are their bank accounts? Investment accounts? Deeds to real estate? If your parents have an estate plan, where do they keep it? It would be ideal to schedule a meeting with both your parents’ financial advisor and estate planning attorney during your visit with them. Keep in mind that establishing a relationship with you parents’ team of professionals can be extremely beneficial if, and when, the time comes to carry out the plans made by your parents.
So, while enjoying all that the holiday season brings, also consider taking this opportunity to cover these important topics with your loved ones to secure their wellbeing and planning decisions for the future. Happy Holidays from Rutkowski Law Firm!