Estate Planning: Talking to Your Parents About Their Assets

new york wills and trusts attorneyThree-quarters of all adults have indicated they have significant problems preventing them from having reasonable, intelligent discussions with elderly family members concerning estate planning issues. In most cases, the children aren’t even prepared to bring the subject up. Unfortunately, this can cause substantial problems in handling the parents’ estates when they pass.

Healthcare Proxies and Powers of Attorney

Elderly Americans should have both healthcare proxies and estate planning powers of attorney. These documents can assist them should they become incapacitated or mentally incompetent. The use of the these two elder law planning tools can prevent bad decisions from being made with regard to helping maintain and keep parents comfortable in their home.

When a senior is able to manage his or her affairs is the best time to have these discussions. The discussions should deal with who will make financial decisions if the senior becomes unable to make them himself or herself. Studies have shown approximately half of Americans will suffer some mental loss during their senior years. There are numerous cases where seniors live in homes without electricity and heat because they forget or ignore paying their bills. In these cases, the execution of an estate planning power of attorney to a trusted child, relative or friend would help eliminate these type of problems.

Seniors Controlling Their Lives

Seniors should be the ones to initiate discussions with regard to dealing with end of life issues. A senior should pick a friend, family member or child who is both knowledgeable in handling financial matters and whom they can trust with their valuable assets.

A Simple Will

At a minimum, seniors should have a simple will. They should either advise their attorney or their loved ones what their assets are and where they are located. If the senior designates one of his or her children to assist in paying bills and handling financial affairs, this child should keep his or her brothers and sisters up to date on what he or she is doing.

estate planning for familiesElliot S. Schlissel is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.