“Pass the potatoes . . . and while you’re at it, where is your Will?”
Cringe-worthy conversation, right? But even though bringing up the topic of death with elderly relatives is something most of us would deeply like to avoid, it’s an important conversation to have.
Knowing if your family members have a life insurance, a last Will and testament, plans or funds for long-term care, as well as topics surrounding a Living Will (i.e. do they want a ‘do not resuscitate’ order if the worst were to happen?) are great ones to be regularly brought up, so everyone is on the same page well before anything happens.
That said, because these topics are not easy to initiate and discuss, they are often left unaddressed, leaving relatives confused, scrambling, and potentially arguing after your loved one is gone.
Here are some of the best ways to seize the moment and talk to your parents about their estate.
Choose the Right Setting Let Them Lead the Conversation Know How and Where You Can Help Talk Nuts and Bolts 1. A Living Will 2. A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) 3. A Last Will and testament 4. A Medical Power of Attorney (MPOA) 5. A Living Trust Guide them with the Paperwork
Choose the Right Setting
This conversation should happen privately, when everyone can focus, not, for example, at a celebratory Mother’s Day lunch.
One good way to segway into the conversation is to mention your own plans. Saying something like, “I’ve been thinking a lot about the future, and I wanted you to know I’ve bought life insurance so I’m covered” is a good way to then ask them what their coverage may be.
Another way to bring up the topic is to mention reading an article (like this one) on the topic or mention a friend who had difficulty assessing their family member’s needs because the topic had never come up. You can even send them our links for them to read through, to better understand the need for a Will and its registration.
Touching on pop culture can add some levity to the conversation while also making it clear it is something that is important to discuss.
Let Them Lead the Conversation
This should not feel like an inquisition, so let them lead the conversation and tell you what they may have done or may not have covered yet.
Say that you hate these questions, but it is something you worry about, and you want to make sure you know their wishes. It is also important not to ask why they have not done anything, if that is the case.
Just let them explain what they have done, and offer help where needed.
Know How and Where You Can Help
It pays to do your own homework and have your own financial ducks in a row before you have this conversation with your parents.
Not only are you then knowledgeable in terminology and language, but you can also offer your perspective (if asked for) as well as any tools or advisors who have helped you along the way in your own journey in managing your affairs.
Talk Nuts and Bolts
Make it clear up front: you are not worried or concerned about specific dollar amounts, you are wondering more about the overall picture of how they have planned for end of life.
Ask if they have a specific place where they keep important documents, passwords, and if there is anything else the family should know.
For example, who is named executor of their will? is a Living Will in place? what happens if a parent experiences cognitive decline? It is also a good time to talk about potential long-term care—if your parents were no longer able to take care of themselves in their house, what would their plan be and how would it be paid for?
The following are five important documents—making sure to discuss all of them can ensure all bases are covered.
1. A Living Will
A Living Will has nothing to do with distributing your property after your death. Instead, it allows you to choose what medical treatments you want to have if you become incapacitated. In a Living Will, you may also name someone to make decisions on your behalf.
2. A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA)
When you make a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA), you should appoint someone you trust to decide and act on your behalf should you lose the mental capacity to make decisions on your financial and personal matters. If you do not make an LPA and subsequently lose your mental capacity, one of your family members needs to apply for a court order to make decisions on your behalf as administrator, which cost both money and time.
3. A Last Will and testament
The purpose of a Will is to record who you want to inherit your assets and, in certain countries, who should control the distribution of your estate.
4. A Medical Power of Attorney (MPOA)
A Medical Power of Attorney (MPOA), also known as a “health care proxy”, is the document whereby you appoint another person to make medical decisions for you if you are incapable of talking to the doctors yourself. A person you trust will speak on your behalf and act in your best interest, while honoring your original wishes.
5. A Living Trust
If a person can no longer manage their estate, they may appoint a person who will do so, thereby holding property and funds for beneficiaries.
Guide them with the Paperwork
Once you have had those conversations, how will they get those documents put in place? A lawyer can help draw up these documents, but it is not always essential, as long as the appointment of the person who will hold the LPA, the MPOA or will act as trustee is made in a legally binding document, instead of agreed upon in a casual conversation.
It is also important to keep a few copies and make sure to let trusted family members know where the documents can be accessed or send them the digital files or point them to an online Will registry like liteWill, along with information of where they can find the originals.
The conversation should not be a one-and-done conversation, it should evolve over time.
Making a point to check in as a family (including far-flung siblings) every six months or every year can ensure everyone is on the same page, any updates on the status of legal forms can be discussed, and anyone can feel free to voice uncomfortable questions.
For instance, it makes sense to appoint the same person as LPA, MPOA and trustee. However, if a birth, marriage, divorce or death occurs, it may be wise to revisit this.
It is never too early—or too late—to start planning, and making it a family project and mission to get organized and covered in the upcoming year can help make it seem less like a fatalistic chore and more of a project to help make bring your family closer.
Writing End-of-Life Documents is the very first step, and it’s an important one. But that’s not enough. In the digital age, the next step is to store those documents online. Otherwise, what happens if your person of confidence is not able to find them in a timely manner? liteWill is the only registration platform that is available globally and that provides the option to store your End-of-Life Documents online. ‘A Will that is not online is like a Will that does not exist’.
This portion of the website is for information only. The statements and opinions are the expression of their author, not of liteWill, and have not been evaluated for accuracy, completeness or changes in the law. Information contained in this article is not a substitute for tax or legal advice.
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