Ask these three questions to ensure they are set up
Estate planning is an essential element of one’s financial plan. We’ve covered it in our blogs before, from planning for yourself to your adult children. However, there is one more group of individuals that we need to care for: our aging parents.
Unfortunately, as our parents age, older children may find themselves in challenging situations as they try to navigate their parent’s financial and healthcare needs, in many cases, unexpectedly.
Financial Advisor and CPA Bradley Blasingame understands this situation personally. Over the last year, he experienced the loss of three grandparents and helped guide the family through the execution of the estate plan. He still remembers when they found an old Folgers Coffee tin in his grandfather’s garage. Filled with over 200 keys, they figured out what 40 of them belonged to, the rest they never did.
Trying to pull documents together, make last-minute arrangements, and pay for care can be difficult, especially if you don’t know where things are or even what the parent’s wishes would have been.
Today, Americans are living over ten years longer than they did 50 years ago, and elder care is becoming a more significant industry and issue. Everyone knows that money is one of the biggest things that families fight over and knowing your parents are taken care of is an opportunity to mitigate this risk of conflict before it starts.
Stress, sadness, pain, and even some family disagreements can be reduced if you ensure plans are made in advance. It can feel intrusive to have estate planning conversations with our parents, but it’s actually not about “prying”; it’s about helping.
THREE QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR AGING PARENTS
- Do You Have an Assigned Power of Attorney?
And does this person know they are assigned this role? This can be as simple as a yes-no question. Depending on how private your family is, you don’t even need to ask who it is. Knowing they have legally designated a Power of Attorney offers peace of mind that someone can make medical and financial decisions on their behalf if they (and/or a spouse) become incapacitated, disabled or even out of pocket for some reason.
- Do You Have a Will?
And does someone know where it is and how to access it? At the heart of every well-laid estate plan is a will. A will covers what should happen when they pass away, including any assets, property and beneficiaries. It’s important to revisit a will every few years to ensure the executors and trustees are all still living and defined as intended.
- Who Do We Contact?
In the case of incapacitation, disability or death, is there a list of people to contact? This doesn’t mean exclusively family and friends, but rather, the names and contact information of their lawyer, financial advisor, CPA or Power of Attorney (if not a family member). Having this information handy will be really helpful in the middle of a stressful and emotional time. This list, and knowing where it is, can be just as important as a will. Rather than searching through old emails, text messages, scraps of paper or Folger’s tins, utilize a document like this one to know the key players.
It’s important to notify your Power of Attorney and/or immediate family of where they can find this and review and update it every few years to ensure the contacts’ name and information are still accurate.
The three above are essential, but knowing answers to the following questions will also be helpful when you enter a challenging situation or unexpectedly try to navigate your parent’s financial and healthcare needs.
- Do you have a safe deposit box or safe? If so, how can this be accessed?
- Do you have life insurance? If so, who is the insurance agent and associated contact information?
- Do you own any out-of-state or out-of-country property?
- Have you documented any elder care, health or end-of-life wishes and requests?
Bradley knows this can be a daunting discussion, but he reminds his clients, “It doesn’t have to be a sad or hard conversation. When approached gently, it can be an opportunity to connect and get to know each other better.”
CREATING THE ESTATE PLAN
Though there is always the option of your parents creating and managing these things themselves, state laws are constantly changing, which could make documents created at home null and void without even knowing it.
It is best to have an estate attorney to help create and maintain these documents ensure they always meet state standards, and therefore will be honored. A qualified estate attorney can help you or your family members create these documents with a complete picture of the assets and the individual’s net worth.
CWA advisors, like Bradley, are here to guide their clients through all financial aspects of their lives, from the expected to the unexpected. To gain confidence in your financial life every step of the way, contact a member of our team at cainwatters.com/contact.