The Estate Planning and Elder Law Firm, PC
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Arlington, VA 22201
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Your Parent's Estate
Estate planning and elder law firms often hear from children who are concerned that their parents may not have an estate plan in place. The children are worried that if something happens to one or both parents, then the children will not be equipped to assist their parents, and many times the children have no idea where the parents stand financially.
Understandably, these subjects may be hard for children to discuss with their parents. The discussion foreshadows a role reversal between parents and children, and therefore the conversation can carry heavy emotional weight.
How can you approach your parents about these issues? First, you should get your own house in order; make sure that you have executed your own will, durable power of attorney, and advance medical directive. After you learn about these tools, then you should be able to approach your parents by referring to your work with an elder law attorney and what you found out. Then ask your parents if they have done the same planning. The goal is to balance safety with independence, and to not wait until an emergency strikes to start planning.
Dont first ask them if they have done a will; this approach can reinforce any impression of greediness on your part, and it can scare away those parents who dont want to think about their own mortality. Focus instead on the durable power of attorney and advance medical directive; ask your parents who can make financial and medical decisions for them if they cannot make them for themselves.
If your parents already have a plan in place, then see if they will let you know where they keep their documents. If you can, ask to review their documents and get the name of their attorney. The attorney may not be able to talk with you at that point in time, but you will know where to turn in case of an emergency. If your parents do not have an estate plan in place, then you should suggest that they make an appointment with an elder law attorney. Your parents may let you schedule an appointment for them, but you need to be aware that the parents, not the children, will be the clients of the attorney.
You will also want to know where your parents keep other important documents and things like safe deposit box keys, birth certificates, passports, deeds, insurance policies, investment and bank statements, tax returns, Social Security numbers, and medical insurance cards and information. If your parents do not want to share this information with you, then ask them to prepare a list and let you know where the list can be found in case of an emergency.
You should assess your parents current financial situation to see whether your parents have sufficient income and resources to meet their needs. You may want to consider purchasing long-term care insurance for your parents if it is affordable and they can qualify. If your parents will not discuss these issues with you, then you should ask a trusted friend of your parents to talk with them to encourage a family dialogue.
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