You may have repeatedly asked your aging parents living in New York if they have a will. Even if they reply in the affirmative, do you know if their will is valid? Many older individuals think that they don’t need to modify estate documents. Here’s how to ask your parents about estate planning.
Confront mortality first
If your parents are active and healthy, it’s easier to approach them about what estate planning documents they have in place. Acknowledge that the conversation will be challenging, but emphasize that you need to know what, if any, steps they have in place for their legacy, as well as for the good of their heirs. Often, you can prompt older parents to take action when you outline how difficult it may be to secure their assets if they die intestate (without a will).
Talk to your parents with respect and empathize with them. Never issue ultimatums and suggest possible solutions. Sometimes, several conversations must occur before your parents honor your wishes and review the estate planning process. Offer to help with the process and guide them through the necessary documents. If you discover that they have an outdated will, indicate how easy it is for them to update it.
Does everyone need a will?
In short, yes. A will may be sufficient if your parents don’t have many assets to distribute after their deaths. However, you should keep in mind that wills must go through probate. Review the estate documents your parents may already have in place to determine if they need modification. Consider suggesting additional protections, such as various trusts, to protect their assets. Look over beneficiaries for transfer-on-death accounts to ensure the named beneficiary reflects their wishes.
Areas frequently overlooked by older individuals who may have a will in place include powers of attorney for finances and healthcare. By naming an agent to care for your parents’ affairs, you can help ensure their needs are met if they are incapacitated. Finally, ask them about establishing a healthcare directive for their final days to make decisions easier.