The Napa Valley Register recently reported in its article, “Estate planning for your parents,” that not all parents are open to this. Some are insecure about their lack of knowledge, and there can be fear of the cost or undue influence. In some instances, parents just don’t want to come to terms with their mortality. Whatever it is, if a parent delays or doesn’t make an estate plan, the children will potentially have stress and conflict—and have to clean up the mess.
Probate is a tiresome, slow moving and bureaucratic headache. There are delays and hard feelings. Probate can also wind up with the wrong people inheriting wealth and family treasures. If you’re not certain if your parents have a proper estate plan designed by a knowledgeable attorney, there are several ways to approach this before a crisis.
The easiest way to see if your parents have a solid estate plan is to ask, “Hey Mom, do you and Dad have a will and a trust?” In addition, see if they have disability planning and other medical documents in place.
If a subtler approach is required, you can try asking for advice from your parents. Tell them you’re trying to get your personal affairs in order and need their help. You can ask them what estate planning they’ve done and what attorney they used. This may get them to open up about their situation, in order to help you with yours.
Another way to ease into this conversation is with an anecdote. You may know a person who had an easier time with proper planning, or maybe you know someone whose life was troubled by avoiding it.
If your parents simply don’t want to talk about this type of planning, you may seek the help of another sibling. They may respond better to your brother or sister.
You can also ask a relative or a trusted friend to broach the subject.
A final option might be to offer to pay for the creation of their estate plan. Tell them that by doing your estate planning, you’ve learned what issues there can be settling an estate that wasn’t in proper order and that you would be willing to pay for them to work with an experienced estate planning attorney. The idea of paying for someone else’s estate plan may not be that appealing, but it will save you time, stress and money in the long run.