Game Changers in Estate Planning
Planning a family get together for the upcoming Super Bowl? Consider adding to the football fun some quality time for family reflection. Use the time to clarify parents’ wishes regarding medical decisions and financial issues. Of course, some families have dynamics that may be too volatile to allow for logical and peaceful discussions but if it is possible in your family, here are several topics to discuss:
- Do you have an Estate Plan and Where is It? Many children have no idea if their parents have an estate plan. If the children have heard their parents mention one, they often have no idea where the parents keep their documents. Tell the children what kind of estate plan you have (Last Will and Testament, Revocable Living Trust, Durable Power of Attorney, etc) and where it is located. If you are treating family members differently or disinheriting someone, it may be best to allow your attorney or another custodian to hold the original documents to prevent the “disappearance” of those documents.
- Who will be in Charge if you are Incapacitated or Deceased? Parents know their children and when disclosing this information will only cause problems. However, if the children are on relatively good terms, it is good for everyone to know who will take charge during times of crisis or to administer an estate or trust. If parents do not feel this topic can be discussed, it is critical for the parents to have a strong agent that can deal with the conflict when it is made known.
- Discuss Long Term Care. If parents are considering any forms of asset protection, explaining the process to the children can prevent misunderstandings and conflict as the plan is implemented. The parents’ wishes for caregiving once the parents need assistance is also a critical conversation to have because children often disagree on how to care for aging parents needing long term care. Additionally, if a child is giving up employment to care for parents, it may be necessary to have a discussion with all children about compensating that child. The parents and caregiver child should also consult with an elder law attorney on how to properly do this to prevent family issues and gift/penalty issues with the State.
- Discuss End of Life Issues. Children need to know how parents feel about end of life issues. Do the parents want life support if the doctors do not feel the parent will ever again be able to function without it? Do the parents want food and water tubes if swallowing is impossible? These are very stressful decisions and knowing the parents’ wishes will be helpful to the family if faced with these decisions.
During family gatherings, enjoy your family; but also remember to use the time productively to address issues that are important to the integrity and harmony of your family.
Partner, Bradford & Holliman, LLC
Practice focuses on estate planning, elder law and special needs trust.
2491 Pelham Parkway, Pelham, Ala. 35124
This article is for educational purposes and is not intended for specific legal advice.