Posted by Dana Law Group on July 11, 2020
If you have difficulty discussing your parents’ legal and financial affairs with them, or if you make every effort to think of the prospect of your parent’s demise, you might be understandably unclear as to their estate plan’s status. Do you know what the current estate plan includes, what it needs to include but doesn’t, or whether it even exists? If you don’t address these issues now, you may find that an incapacitating incident or death makes the matter academic, leaving you in a tangle of disorganization and confusion. Take a look at three possible states of estate plan completeness, and consider how each might affect your future.
If you’re lucky, your parents have already taken the matter of estate planning into detailed consideration. They have consulted an attorney, received instructions on what kinds of documents they must prepare, and then taken action to complete those documents. They have also listed their assets in an easily-accessible document or file, with instructions on where you can find this list. If they have stored certain assets or documents in a safe deposit box, they have added you to the bank’s list of individuals who can access it. Last but least, they have given you their attorney’s contact information so that you can have any necessary discussions with that professional both before and after their death.
Are your parents still in the process of putting their estate plan into shape? If so, you might notice the absence of certain key elements such as a final Will and Testament or Durable Power of Attorney. (The lack of an Advance Medical Directive may prove especially agonizing by leaving you with no clear idea how your incapacitated parents wish to address end-of-life-decisions.) Your parents may not have written down their assets onto any kind of central list, leaving you to do countless hours of detective work to track these assets down after their death. If they have created a complete estate plan, that plan may have sat for years with no updates or other necessary changes, rendering it inconsistent at best and totally obsolete at worst.
the lack of any estate plan at all places you in a potentially terrible situation. If your parents die without naming you as their primary beneficiary, for example, you may have to go through a long period of legal wrangling with state probate court to straighten things out. You may have no idea what assets your parents owned or where the information on those assets can be found. Another cause for alarm is an estate plan that, upon examination, has apparently been manipulated by some unscrupulous outside party. If you discover this issue, you need to discuss the details with your parents immediately to ensure that their wishes are indeed represented in the plan.
Talk to your parents about their estate planning efforts. If they could use a hand, contact our legal office for professional guidance and assistance.