Are you the adult child of aging parents? Are you concerned about their future and wondering whether they have completed any estate planning? It is a fact that less than half of all adult Americans have completed their estate plan. As you look to a future where you may be called on to assist your parents, look for ways to encourage them to begin creating their estate plan. Their plan will not be just for the future but, most importantly, for right now to be sure that if something happens to them you will have the authority to help them out.
However, perhaps your parents have created their estate plan and that is good news. By having their estate plan in place you know they have protected themselves by having a decision maker if there is a crisis. Do you know who they have chosen to be their decision maker? You may be surprised to learn you are the person who they selected to make their decisions. With the knowledge that you are their decision maker, we know you may have questions about the task ahead. Because you are named in your parents estate plan you will want to know what your duties and responsibilities actually are. We would like to share five key considerations with you right here.
1. If there is a crisis, what happens? This is an important question to ask your parents. What do they want you to do in a sudden crisis? Now a crisis could include anything from being in a coma due to a serious car accident to being stuck overseas because of a flight delay. What do they see as your role? What expectations do your parents have for you? By knowing what the advanced plans are now and knowing the wishes of your parents you will be able to make the best decisions for them when you need to successfully navigate a crisis.
2. If health care decisions for your parents need to be made, what are their preferences? Health care planning is an important part of an estate plan. If your parents named you as their decision maker then you need to know what they want for their health care. For example: What do they want for their general care? What is their goal for long-term care? If their doctor recommended it, would they want life support? We know these are tough questions to ask, but you need to learn what their health care preferences are so you can make decisions that support their wishes for health care in any situation. Always have an up-to-date list of their diagnoses, doctors, specialists, and medicines.
3. If financial decisions for your parents need to be made, what preparations have they made? If you have been named as their agent in their durable power of attorney or a trustee in their trust, you need to find out as much as you can about their finances. You should ask your parents questions about where they invest, who they work with, and what type of management fees they pay? Find out if they have life insurance or other policies with beneficiaries that might pass outside the estate plan? Are all their policies, insurances and estate planning tools current? By starting the discussion with your parents now you will know what to expect should you need to step in.
4. Do your parents want to be sure their legacy is protected if anything should happen to them? In addition to creating an estate plan to protect themselves, your parents also want to protect their future, their family, and their legacy. Do you know what legacy they wish to leave behind? What is the vision your parents have for the time when they are no longer here? By knowing their vision you can be sure to see it come to fruition.
5. Did your parents use a Wisconsin estate planning attorney? When discussing their estate planning, ask your parents the following questions: Who did your parents work with in creating their estate plan? What will be your relationship with their attorney? Where are the original documents kept? Is it possible to meet the attorney for your parents in advance to make sure you understand your roles and responsibilities? Be sure to let your parents know that you are open to having this discussion with their attorney.
Being named within your parents’ estate plan brings serious questions that you need answered. We understand these challenges and want to support both you and your parents to get the experienced legal guidance you need. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with attorney Alan Hougum today.