Gently, very gently.
If your father or mother has just lost a spouse, then broaching the subject of estate planning can be stressful ... for both of you.
A recent New Jersey 101.5 article, titled "How to handle a parent not having a will," notes that it is common for the recently widowed to postpone estate planning for as long as possible.
To avoid dealing with fears relating to their own passing.
They also may feel overwhelmed by the process.
Also, if your father recently passed away, then your mother may be hearing you say "You're gonna die soon, so please leave me an appropriate share."
At the same time, talk of drafting a will may bring back painful emotions linked to your father's death.
Instead of "pressuring" your mother to get her "affairs in order," point out the positives of getting her estate plan squared away sooner rather than later.
For example, a will allows her to specify how her assets will be transferred at her death. This includes avoiding potential family "flash points" like clarifying bequests of family heirlooms to specific people or charitable contributions.
Bottom line, Mom, if you have no will then you have no control. Your assets will pass according to the intestate laws of the state.
But there is more bad news when there is no estate plan.
Probating an estate without a will can mean more time and money than an estate with a will.
In addition, not having a will leaves the heirs to clean up an otherwise avoidable mess while already grieving.
Proper planning allows your mother to minimize estate taxes (depending on where she lives and the size of her estate), inheritance taxes (neither Kansas nor Missouri has these), and even some income taxes depending on her circumstances.
This allows more wealth to pass to her heirs.
Parents can be quite uncomfortable talking about these issues with their children, so you might solicit the help of a close friend or other family members like an aunt or uncle to help bring up the subject.
Many families find that an experienced estate planning attorney can help facilitate the process.
Be prepared for this to take some time. It may take several discussions to get things rolling.
So, how do you find an "experienced" estate planning attorney?
First, ask around. Friends, family and other professional advisors are trustworthy sources.
Second, conduct an "organic" search on "Google" for "estate planning" near you (e.g., "Estate Planning Anytown MoKan").
Third, either way, verify. Check out the education, experience, ratings and client reviews of any attorney before you contact him or her.
In fact, I use both of these services to thoroughly vett attorneys before referring members of our "client" family for legal help in other areas of law or for matters in jurisdictions outside Kansas or Missouri.
Remember: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When making your financial, tax and estate plans, do not go it alone. Be sure to engage competent professional counsel.
For more information about estate planning in Overland Park, KS (and throughout the rest of Kansas and Missouri), visit our estate planning website and be sure to subscribe to our complimentary estate planning e-newsletter while you are there.
Reference: New Jersey 101.5 (April 7, 2016) "How to handle a parent not having a will"