Did you know a strong estate plan is imperative for financial health, and ensuring end-of-life decisions are carried out according to one’s wishes. Put simply, an estate plan protects wealth and provides instructions for the transfer of assets to selected beneficiaries.

Your aging parents’ plan should also include tax strategies, a will or trust agreement, and other important items, such as:

  • Power of attorney documents, 
  • Guardian designations for minor children, or grandchildren,
  • Instructions and protections for special needs family members who rely on government benefits,
  • Directions relating to business ownership or equity stakes, and
  • Advance health care directives, or living wills.

Once created, these documents will need periodic updating. This is particularly important for older seniors, and for those who may be in poor health. This is one of the ways an adult child may be able to provide extra help to an aging parent who may not know to update his or her estate plan, even though it is needed. There is never a wrong time to revisit an existing plan but, at a minimum, it should be considered when significant life events transpire, such as the birth of a grandchild, a marriage, or death in the family.

Remember, changing an estate plan involves more than just scratching out items you no longer like and inking new provisions in the margin. Be careful, you cannot just throw away an old document and draw up a new one. There are important procedures that should be followed to ensure the new documents can accomplish what you need.

In the case of most estate planning documents, revisions can be made anytime with your estate planning attorney while the creator is alive, provided he or she is mentally competent and not under duress. For example, changing beneficiaries to a revocable trust may require a formal amendment.

While changing your aging parents’ estate planning from time to time to reflect changes in circumstances or your wishes, is always at your discretion, you will want to discuss this with your estate planning attorney.

Your attorney can let you know the pros and cons to your decisions, and provide the guidance you need to make the right choice to protect yourself and your loved ones. The key, however, is to ensure you create an estate plan. Unfortunately, as we celebrate National Estate Planning Awareness Week this October, the fact remains that more than half of Americans, or 56 percent, still do not have estate planning.

We know this article may raise more questions than it answers for you and your loved ones. Do not wait to contact our law office to schedule a meeting with attorney Alan Hougum to discuss your estate planning needs this month, or any time throughout the year.