Your parents do not have to navigate estate planning alone.
You love your parents.
Selfishly, you would also prefer to not sort through a mess after they have passed.
Nevertheless, the last thing you want to do is overwhelm with the need to get their affairs in order.
Caught between these competing realities, is there anything you can do to help?
Yes, according to a recent The Monterey Herald article titled “Financial planning: Making sure Mom is taken care of.”
Ask if they have a last will and testament, maybe a revocable living trust, a general durable power of attorney, and certainly an advance health care directive.
If yes, ask whether their legal documents were prepared by an experienced estate planning attorney or downloaded on the cheap from the internet.
An experienced estate planning attorney will help makes sure the legal documents satisfy the relevant laws, let alone the goals and wishes of your parents.
The internet is, well, the internet.
For example, how thoughtfully an advance health care directive is prepared will impact when and how much authority is given to the agent, as well as any guidance regarding important treatment decisions.
If your parents have only a last will and testament to plan their complex estate, you may recommend that they ask their estate planning attorney whether a living trust may be more appropriate.
Why might this be helpful?
A living trust can help keep assets out of probate (like their out-of-state real estate holdings), allowing for a speedier and more private distribution.
If your folks have assets with beneficiary designations, it is important to keep the designations updated.
Definitely check IRA accounts, 401(k) accounts, and life insurance policies.
Discourage your parents from adding a financially unstable sibling as a joint owner on anything, especially if she is or will be subject to creditors, marital strife, or legal problems.
The assets of your parents could be put at risk from these issues orbiting your sibling.
These are but a few examples of ways you may assist your parents with their estate planning.
While you are at it, one of the best ways to encourage them is to share your own estate plan as an example.
Reference: Monterey Herald (March 20, 2019) “Financial planning: Making sure Mom is taken care of”