Many people don’t see the importance of estate planning until they have been forced to settle an estate that wasn’t ready.
Settling an estate that doesn’t have proper documents like a will and trust is a costly and time-consuming nightmare.
Some parents are willing to bring their kids into the estate planning process. Many parents see this as a way to share the work and bring in a younger mind to help navigate estate planning complexities.
Not all parents are open to help. Some parents feel insecure about their lack of knowledge—fear of the cost or undue influence. Sometimes parents don’t like addressing their mortality.
If a parent ignores the need for estate planning, the children will be forced to clean up the mess.
Probate is a slow and bureaucratic nightmare. It delays and reduces inheritances. Probate can also cause the wrong people to inherit wealth and valuable family treasures.
If you are unsure if your parents have a proper estate plan and are hoping to address the issue before death or disability, there are several ways to approach this.
The easiest way to discover if parents have a proper estate plan is to ask.
Do they have a will and a trust? Do they have medical documents in place? Some parents won’t like direct questions, which can lead to being cut off from the discussion and perhaps the estate. Tread lightly.
If a more subtle approach is needed, try asking for advice.
Tell your parents you are trying to get your personal affairs in order and need their help. Ask what estate planning measures they have taken and who helped them. They may be willing to open up about their situation to assist you with yours.
Another subtle approach is to share an anecdotal story.
Perhaps you know a person whose life was made much easier by having proper documents for death or disability. Maybe you know a person whose life was complicated by avoiding it. Anecdotes can be an excellent way to open the discussion.
If your parents don’t want to address the topic, perhaps let another sibling try.
Parents care deeply for their children, but that doesn’t mean they trust them all equally. If you have a history of mismanaging money, breaking promises, or being difficult, you may not be the right person to take the lead. Encourage another relative or sibling to approach the subject.
The last resort may be to offer to pay.
Tell your parents that by doing your estate planning, you have learned what a nightmare it would be to settle an estate that wasn’t in proper order and that you would be willing to pay for them to work with an attorney.
Paying for someone else’s estate plan may seem unpleasant, but it will ultimately save you time and money.
Not all estate plans require hiring an attorney, so it may be easier than you imagine.
Tom and John Mills are registered investment advisers and certified financial planners. Reach them at 254-0155 or MillsWealth.com. Securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through Strategic Wealth Advisors Group (SWAG), a registered investment adviser.
The business news you need
With a weekly newsletter looking back at local history.