The Talk You Must Have with Your Parents
Having lost my mother after a lengthy illness, I can truly relate to the emotional minefield of dealing with elderly parents. Luckily, for my family, my mother had the foresight to have her legal affairs in order well in advance of her physical decline due to cancer. It is never too soon for adult children to start talking with their parents about the “What If’s,” and start estate planning.
Planning for what could happen. However, many children are reluctant to push the issue for fear they will look greedy in the eyes of their parents. You are dealing with one of our culture’s biggest taboos — death and money.
Nevertheless, children who do not take an assertive step may get a rude awakening. You may find yourself scavenging for original Wills, cemetery lot, insurance policies, deed to the home, etc., after your parents die. Or worse, you may find that your parents lack the basic tools to protect their financial interests if they became seriously ill or incompetent.
Make sure your parents have a detailed list of their assets and know where they keep their important papers. If they have a safe deposit box, make sure one of the adult children is named as a deputy on the box so that he or she can access the box if a parent is too sick to do so. Discuss with your parents their funeral preferences. Encourage them to preplan their funerals.
Review your parent’s Wills with them to make sure they are current. Perhaps a beneficiary has died or married since the Will was written or your parents would like to change the Executor they had previously selected or would like to add a specific sum to a charitable beneficiary.
In addition to reviewing your parent’s Wills and important papers, I would urge you to verify that your parents have executed Durable Powers of Attorney for Finance, Durable Powers of Attorney for Health Care and Advance Directives for Health Care.
Estate Planning requires the skills and experience obtained only by years of study, training, and practice. Consult an experienced attorney. After all, you will not be around to “fix” mistakes when they are discovered by your loved ones!