Congratulations! Now comes the hard part.
Once you have organized your own Life Plan, it may be clearer to you than ever that your parents need to do the same.
I know this is a difficult task and about as pleasant to tackle as writing your own will – but it is truly an investment in your own future – especially if you believe the burden of Executor duties or simply helping out an incapacitated parent may fall to you.
Nearly 50% of “boomer” parents have not talked to their adult children about their finances and how they would like their assets handled in the event of a catastrophe. This could make things extremely difficult for you in the future. What if they don’t have all the right forms of consent? How will you know if you’ve notified all of their creditors? What if they don’t have enough money to live on for twenty more years?
Make time now to get the conversation going – while the concept of estate planning is still fresh in your mind. If you are uncomfortable with the conversation, or feel it seems “greedy,” remember, an estate plan is about much more than distributing their assets. A comprehensive estate plan is also about protecting them when they are incapacitated, making sure the surviving spouse can manage on their own, and reducing the burden on family members.
Start by making sure that your parents have the Big 4 documents (Will, Living Will, Powers of Attorney for Health Care and Finance). Make sure you know where these are kept, and if everyone is copacetic, get a copy of these documents.
Then, if all are willing, try to discuss a little bit about where they stand financially and their expectations in retirement. Make sure they are on track with investments and withdrawals and that assets will be available as long as they need them. Understand whether they feel they need help and determine how you might assist. Begin to learn where they keep important documents, use Lock & Key to help them get organized (for your behalf!).
If this is not a welcome gesture in your family, there are some small tasks that may be doable now that can still help you in the future. Start by asking parents to check to see that they have their estate planning documents all in one place. They don’t even need to share it with you now, just show you where it’s kept. Next, ask that they have checked all of their beneficiaries and updated all of their documents annually. Maybe they would be comfortable filling out the Lock & Key by themselves. Little by little, they may allow you to help.
You may be pleasantly surprised to find that your parents are not only willing, but, eager to talk to you about this subject, they simply did not know where to start. The important thing is to begin this process now, in order to make everyone’s life easier in the future.
Sometimes an impartial third party is what you need to make mom and dad comfortable. Depending on which parts of the estate plan you are working on, it may be appropriate to see a lawyer or possibly a financial planner. Both of these professionals can help put parents’ minds at ease.